An Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation determined that in December 2022, a 20-year-old sawmill worker lost his life at the Rex Lumber LLC facility in Troy. The tragedy occurred when the worker, part of a six-member crew clearing a jammed roller, was crushed by the infeed unit closing on him due to stored energy.
Pattern of Neglect at Rex Lumber Sawmills
This incident is not isolated. Tragically, there have been two previous incidents at Rex Lumber sawmills in Florida. In March 2021, at the Graceville location, an employee suffered crushing injuries while trying to fix a machine’s faulty hydraulic valve. In December 2020, at the Bristol location, another worker had their hand amputated after it came in contact with a conveyor roller. Regrettably, the worker later succumbed to their injuries in the hospital.
OSHA’s Response and Penalties
As a result of the investigation, OSHA issued a willful citation to Rex Lumber LLC for allowing workers to perform maintenance without controlling hazardous energy sources. The company also failed to regularly review energy control procedures and neglected proper training on isolating stored energy in hydraulic accumulators.
OSHA has assessed the company with $184,385 in proposed penalties. Since 2013, Rex Lumber LLC and its subsidiaries have received 19 serious and other-than-serious violations.
Importance of Safety Compliance and OSHA Resources
“Rex Lumber’s failure to comply with safety requirements led to a worker’s death and put others at risk,” stated OSHA Area Office Director Jose Gonzalez in Mobile, Alabama. “Safety standards exist to protect workers from machinery hazards, and when followed, they save lives.”
Rex Lumber LLC has operated since 1926 and runs sawmills in Troy, Alabama; South Windsor, Connecticut; Bristol and Graceville, Florida; Acton, Massachusetts; Brookhaven, Mississippi; and Doswell, Virginia. The company employs approximately 360 workers in yellow pine lumber harvesting.
The company has 15 business days to comply with citations, request an informal conference, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Employers seeking guidance on workplace safety and health programs can visit OSHA’s website. OSHA provides compliance assistance resources and offers free help on complying with OSHA standards.