Feds Slam Auto Parts Manufacturer in Worker Death

Workers operating manufacturing equipment do dangerous work in Houston and across the nation. Ignoring safety can have tragic consequences.

When companies neglect safety measures, workers can suffer catastrophic injuries. A young Alabama woman died in June 2016 just two weeks before her wedding day when a robotic machine at a plant owned by Asian auto parts maker Ajin USA crushed her to death.

Regina Elsea, 20 years old, was a temporary worker at the plant that supplies parts to Korean auto makers Hyundai and KIA. She entered the robotic space to clear a sensor fault when the machine abruptly restarted, impaling and crushing her. She died the next day in a local hospital.

Preventable & Not Isolated

As WTVM-TV of Columbus, Georgia reports the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied a stiff fine of $2.5 million against Ajin USA, following an investigation that revealed 23 “willful, serious and other-than serious violations,” 19 of which were categorized as “egregious instance-by-instance willful violations.”

Among the violations cited by OSHA were failing to provide procedures to prevent machines from starting during maintenance and servicing, as well as exposing workers to crushing hazards by allowing them to enter the robotic cell without equipment shut down.

An OSHA official said that incident’s like this are the reason the agency developed a special safety program tailored to auto parts manufacturers.

“This was a preventable incident – Ajin USA only had to ensure that proper safety measures were followed to de-energize the robot before the workers entered the station,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta. “Incidents like this one are not isolated and that is why OSHA has developed and implemented its Regional Emphasis Program on Safety Hazards in the Auto Parts Industry.”

OSHA has placed Ajin USA in its Severe Violators Enforcement Program which provides for stricter scrutiny by the agency due to willful and repeated infractions.

Misplaced Emphasis On Safety

Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels reiterated that the tragedy could have been prevented, and noted the irony that, “In addition, it is unfortunate that Hyundai and Kia, who set strict specifications on the parts they purchase from their suppliers, appear to be less concerned with the safety of the workers who manufacture those parts.”

Wochit News reports in this video on a similar tragedy in Michigan and shows examples of the robotic cell involved. As in the Alabama case, the ability of workers to enter the cell without the machine being deactivated is cited as a factor in a worker’s death.

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Experienced Experts in Workplace Accident Law

When companies repeatedly and willfully ignore safety measures for their workers, tragedy can strike innocent victims like this young bride to be. Besides penalties issued by the government due to violations of safety regulations, the injured worker and their loved ones deserve justice.

If you have been injured or are a surviving loved one of someone who suffered fatal injuries in an industrial accident, you may be eligible for compensation for damages and losses. The Callahan Law Firm fights on behalf of injured workers and their families.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation Today.