UPDATE: OSHA proposes fine in worker death at Marietta company

Leonard Grier, 58, was killed after a fall in February 2021 while working at a Marietta company.

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Leonard Grier, 58, was killed after a fall in February 2021 while working at a Marietta company.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include interviews with the worker’s mother and brother.

The federal government has proposed $167,933 in penalties for a Marietta company, charging that lax procedures were responsible for the death of a worker in February.

Company officials denied the allegations and contested the government’s version of the incident in which Leonard Grier, 58, died.

Meanwhile, Grier’s family told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that company officials stonewalled their efforts to find out what happened.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday that Kitchen & Bath Solutions allowed Grier, a forklift operator, to work on elevated storage racks without proper protection and that he fell 15 feet onto a concrete floor.

According to a report by the Marietta Police Department, Grier, who lived in Austell, was found breathing, but unconscious, on Feb. 13 and taken to Kennestone Hospital. The police report said that the forklift from which Grier had apparently fallen had a harness, but it did not appear that he had been wearing it.

He died within days from his injuries, according to OSHA.

The incident was preventable, said Jeffery Stawowy, OSHA area office director. “This case should remind all employers that prioritizing production or profits over safety is never an acceptable choice.”

OSHA cited the company for a number of violations, including an alleged failure to train employees on operating powered industrial trucks safely and not inspecting or removing faulty forklifts from service.

However, the allegations were rejected by Alex Liu, the company president.

He told the AJC that the worker had been trained and warned repeatedly about the need to wear a harness that would keep him from falling. “He had been warned more than once.”

At the time of the incident, Grier was intoxicated, Liu also alleged to the AJC.

In addition to being without a harness, Grier did not follow other safety procedures, using the wrong equipment to lift him toward the higher racks, Liu said.

Kitchen & Bath Solutions imports kitchen cabinets and similar items, selling them wholesale in the United States. It is family owned.

The incident happened on a Saturday when only a handful of the company’s 20 employees were in the facility, including only one supervisor, Liu said. “This was overtime work.”

The company received written notification of OSHA’s conclusion earlier this week, and has 15 business days to respond.

Liu complained that the OSHA investigation was inadequate. Officials did not interview any of the supervisors at the site, he said. “How do they arrive at a decision without even talking to us?”

But it’s the company that has a problem with a lack of communication, Grier’s family members said. Relatives said they learned of the accident from police or hospital officials, not Grier’s employer.

“Isn’t that why you have emergency numbers? So if something happens, you can pick up the phone and call?” said Nathan Grier, Leonard Grier’s younger brother. “They didn’t have enough decency to pick up a phone.”

He said his brother had struggled with drinking, but had to all appearances been sober for months.

“I can’t say whether or not he was drinking,” said Nathan Grier. “If it’s true that he didn’t have his harness on the way he should have, then I’m mad at him. But I have no idea what the company came up with because no one would talk to me.”

Betty Smith, Leonard Grier’s mother, said she was unable to speak to her late son’s employers. “I tried reaching out to them and no one ever called me back,” she said.

She said she was especially bitter about the way the company treated her son after his death.

“The company didn’t do anything for him,” she said. “They didn’t send flowers. Nothing.”