OSHA finds Rex Lumber at fault in worker’s death, Rex Lumber disagrees

Published 1:23 pm Thursday, July 6, 2023

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The U.S. Dept. of Labor has corrected information about prior Rex Lumber violations and removed violations that were wrongfully attributed to the company. 

On July 5, the U.S. Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a statement holding Rex Lumber at fault for the 2022 death of a worker at its Troy facility.

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On Dec. 21, 2022, Troy Police responded to an accident at Rex Lumber in Troy. Police officers arrived on the scene to find 20-year-old Evan Kilpatrick, of Troy, had succumbed to injuries that he received while working on a piece of machinery at the sawmill.

According to OSHA, the sawmill worker was a part of a six-man crew that was working to clear a jammed roller at Rex Lumber when Kilpatrick was crushed after stored energy caused the infeed unit to close on him.

OSHA issued Rex Lumber a willful citation for allowing workers to preform maintenance on equipment without controlling hazardous energy sources. OSHA also states that Rex Lumber failed to review its energy control procedures regularly to ensure compliance and did not train employees on how to isolate stored energy in hydraulic accumulators.

OSHA states that this is the third time that Rex Lumber has failed to follow federal workplace safety standards across its organization since 2020. According to the release, two other incidents occurred in 2020 and 2021 at Rex Lumber sawmills in Florida.

An employee at the company’s Graceville, Fla., location suffered crushing injuries when they were caught in a machine’s wheels and pulleys, while the 2020 incident saw a worker suffer amputation – and died in the hospital days later – after their hand came in contact with the nip point of a conveyor’s roller at its Bristol, Fla., plant.

“Rex Lumber’s failure to comply with well-known safety requirements led to the death of a worker and put others at serious risk of harm,” OSHA Area Office Director Jose Gonzalez said of the Troy incident. “Safety standards exist to protect workers from the hazards of moving machinery and when followed, they can save lives.”

OSHA has assessed Rex Lumber with $184,385 in proposed penalties for the incident in Troy. Rex Lumber has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Rex Lumber issued a statement to Al.com contesting the findings.

“We’re made up of local people, and OSHA’s characterization of the facts and alleged violations does not match the events or our efforts. Federal-OSHA has a vital mission to ensure employers are aware of its regulations,” Rex Lumber’s statement read. “It uses these press releases to get attention but the underlying cases almost always turn out differently after the entire process is completed. We have cooperated with OSHA and continue our efforts to always make our plants even safer. It’s been a tough time and our employees have worked hard.”

According to the original release, OSHA claimed to have cited Rex Lumber for 19 violations since 2013. Rex Lumber contested some of the violations that OSHA attributed to the company, stating that some of them were actually violations levied against another company doing business as “Rex Lumber” based in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia. The Rex Lumber that owns the Troy facility also has sawmills in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.

On July 7, the Department of Labor acknowledged that some of those violations were incorrectly attributed to Rex Lumber and corrected its press release. However, OSHA also issued the following statement to the media, “OSHA stands by its initial findings of its December 2022 investigation at Rex Lumber in Troy, Alabama.”