Georgia pillow maker hit with $190K OSHA fine after worker amputations

Credit: Sipa USA via AP

Credit: Sipa USA via AP

The U.S. Department of Labor cited a South Georgia pillow manufacturer following an inspection that found three workers had sustained amputation injuries amid repeat workplace safety violations, according to a Thursday news release.

An inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in November 2021 found Place Vendome Holding Co. in Swainsboro exposed workers to some of the same hazards the agency found during an inspection one year prior, according to the release. OSHA has proposed $190,758 in penalties against the company, which operates as R&F Marketing.

“This ongoing disregard for the safety of their employees is unacceptable, and we will continue to hold them accountable until they follow all necessary federal requirements and take steps to protect workers at this facility,” Jose Gonzalez, OSHA Acting Area Office Director in Savannah, said in the release.

The company can contest the citations through June 14, Department of Labor spokesman Eric Lucero said in an email. It was not clear if the company had contested the citations as of press time Friday morning.

Place Vendome declined to comment.

After the November 2021 inspection, OSHA cited the company with seven repeated serious violations, including violations for obstructing exit routes, failing to post well-lit signs identifying exit routes and stacking materials in unstable or unsecured tiers. The agency also cited the company for failing to mount or keep fire extinguishers accessible and to train workers who were designated to use fire extinguishers, according to the release.

The office issued new, serious violations for locking an emergency exit door from the outside, failing to have emergency action plans in place, failing to establish and use equipment-specific procedures to control hazardous energy and train workers on the procedures, according to the release.

The new violations included those for exposing workers to amputation. In December 2020, one worker sustained an unspecified amputation injury in which OSHA found no lockout or tagout procedures to protect workers, according to the release.

In February 2021, a machine operator had nine fingers crushed and one amputated during an incident, and OSHA found the machine’s energy control locks had been removed. One month later, a maintenance manager was loading a pallet jack onto a truck when their finger was caught between the wheels of the jack and was amputated, according to the release. In April 2022, another maintenance manager was attempting to clean fibers from a motor when they sustained a lacerated hand.

The latest citations were issued May 17, documents show.

The violation for failure to train designated employees to use a fire extinguisher was required to be abated by June 6, but online DOL records do not show if that had been addressed by Thursday afternoon. All violations besides that must be removed by June 21, according to the citations.

Place Vendome had 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference to adjust the penalties or citations, or contest the findings with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.