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Monday, May 22, 2023

United Hospital Supply Corp. faces $498K in penalties after amputation incident

An employee's first day of work at a southern New Jersey manufacturing facility ended tragically when he suffered the amputation of three fingers while operating a press brake without required safety guards, similar to violations cited by federal safety investigators at the facility in 2010 and 2015.

After the incident prompted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor, investigators with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration began two investigations at United Hospital Supply Corp. in Burlington in November 2022.

OSHA cited the company, which produces metal products for hospitals, laboratories and schools, for a willful violation because supervisors and employees deliberately bypassed the press brake's light curtain, which led to the amputation. The agency also cited United Hospital Supply for willfully failing to remove and repair an inoperable forklift and to provide hazard communication training for chemicals used in the facility. OSHA has cited the company for the forklift and chemical training violations in its inspections dating back to 2010.

The agency also found the company exposed workers to welding fumes above the permissible exposure levels, did not provide respirators when needed, failed to develop a lockout/tagout program to prevent accidental machine startup and did not provide lockout/tagout training.

Following the November inspections, OSHA cited United Hospital Supply Corp. for three willful violations, 17 serious violations and one other-than-serious violation and proposed $498,464 in penalties. For the company's intentional disregard and willful violations, the agency has placed United Hospital Supply in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

"Despite previous citations and penalties, United Hospital Supply Corp. has ignored its responsibility for protecting the safety and health of its employees," said OSHA Area Director Paula Dixon-Roderick in Marlton, New Jersey. "Machine guarding is a basic safety measure for reducing dangerous hazards for machine operators which, in this case, could have prevented a new employee from suffering a traumatic life-changing injury."

United Hospital Supply Corp. manufactures steel cabinets, lockers, laboratory hoods and other metal products for hospitals, laboratories and schools. Founded in 1976, the company employs about 100 employees represented by Local 19 of the Sheet Metal Workers Union in Philadelphia.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Learn more about OSHAlockout/tagout procedures and machine guarding standards.

Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

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Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters