OSHA says 3M knew the process was dangerous before a fatal accident occurred

OSHA says 3M knew the process was dangerous before a fatal accident occurred

In February 2022, a 63-year-old worker was killed at a 3M plant (New York Stock Exchange: mmm) Factory in Alexandria, Minnesota. The worker became entangled with the machine during the night shift.

A few months after the accident, the company evaluated its equipment at American and Canadian factories. After 3M completed its investigation, it “determined that powered pulleys presented risks that needed safety improvement,” according to OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan.

In May 2023, a worker was helping set up a plastic extrusion line at a 3M manufacturing plant in southwestern Wisconsin and died after falling into the machine’s rotating rollers. According to OSHA, the death at Prairie du Chien could have been avoided if the company had followed federal workplace safety regulations and listened to its own advice.

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OSHA investigators found that 3M violated federal hazardous energy control regulations, more commonly known as lockout/tagout, while setting up, maintaining and operating the machine. The company also failed to implement energy control steps when employees set up the production line by passing fiber material through manually powered rollers as the rollers rotated.

Plant workers were also allowed to circumvent machine guarding to cut and remove coiled fibers from powered rotating reels and to remove fibers from the floor, exposing themselves to trapped hazards.

The safety agency assessed $312,518 in proposed fines for two willful safety violations.

The company has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference, or object to the results.

IEN contacted 3M, and the company provided the following statement:

“The safety and health of all our employees is our top priority, and we are deeply saddened by this tragic incident. Over the past six months, we have worked closely with federal workplace safety and health agencies regarding their inspection of our Prairie du Chien work site vehicle. In addition 3M has continued to implement improvements and investments to help prevent similar incidents in the future and has communicated these improvements to our employees on the jobsite.

“We are currently in the process of evaluating a citation and notice of penalty from OSHA, and will continue to work with the Department of Labor to address this matter.”

3M is headquartered in Maplewood, Minnesota, and operates 40 factories in the United States. The company employs about 34,000 workers in the United States, including about 500 in Prairie du Chien.

According to OSHA’s Donovan, “A company must address these hazards immediately to protect employees from serious injury or worse.”

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