A 45-year-old worker at Sunbelt Forest Products died after a forklift struck her as she walked across the Athens, Ala., lumber shipping yard on Nov. 15, 2021. The subsequent U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation has resulted in a citation levied against the company, which is now facing the possibility of fines upward of $50,000.

With $14,502 on the line, OSHA says Sunbelt Forest Products did not provide, and ensure each employee uses, a safe means of access and egress to and from walking-working surfaces, given that “employees were exposed to struck-by hazards when shipping department employees were permitted to walk across the yard where the forklift drivers could not see them.”

The company could see a second fine in the same amount ($14,502) for not having permanent aisles or passageways [that] were not appropriately marked, as “shipping department travel aisles for trucks, forklifts, and pedestrians were not marked in any way.”

An additional $14,502 could be on the table because “industrial truck drivers were not required to look in the direction of and keep a clear view of the path of travel,” while the company is also facing $10,360 in fines for having powered industrial truck(s) found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe had not been taken out of service until restored to safe operating condition(s). This last violation was documented as “forklifts with cracked windshields, a broken side window, a missing rearview mirror, and a compartment door that would not stay closed were not taken out of service.”

While the company was also cited for having industrial trucks in service despite pre-op checklists not being completed, OSHA did not attach a price tag to the violation.

“A forklift typically weighs between 4,000 to 9,000 pounds and poses significant risk of severe injury or death to workers who may be struck-by this equipment. Employers must take precautions in workplaces that use powered industrial vehicles to prevent devastating incidents and the loss of someone’s life,” said OSHA area office director Ramona Morris in Birmingham, Alabama.

Sunbelt Forest Products has until June 6 to either remedy the situations, request more time, or contest the citations.

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