Auto part manufacturer Ajin USA, a Hyundai supplier, must pay $1.3 million in penalties over the 2016 death of a worker at its Cusseta, Alabama facility
The manufacturer had contested the penalties, but an independent Occupational Safety and Health Administration commission validated the decision, according to a March 8 press release.
The worker, Regina Elsea, was killed in June 2016 by a robotic arm that moved unexpectedly while she performed a maintenance task, according to an OSHA investigation. Elsea and three other workers had entered an enclosure to clear a sensor fault when the robot restarted abruptly, fatally striking the 20-year-old
Ajin USA did not follow an OSHA-required lockout protocol requiring equipment to be powered down in such instances, despite supervisors being present, according to a 2020 Department of Justice release.
"Failing to lock out equipment causes far too many serious injuries and deaths," OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer in Atlanta said in a statement. "In this case, a young woman lost her life because her employer took shortcuts to minimize downtime and maintain production."
As a result of its inspection, OSHA cited Ajin USA with 51 safety violations, which included 48 willful violations. The manufacturer contested the violations, but an administrative law judge upheld the decision on Feb. 10.
OSHA isn't the only federal agency that investigated Ajin USA after Elsea's death. In 2020, the Department of Justice ordered Ajin USA to pay a $50,000 fine, $1 million in restitution to Elsea's estate.
The automaker was also sentenced with a three-year probation, overseen by a third-party auditor, where the company must follow a safety-compliance plan.
The safety plan includes a full review of Ajin’s lockout and tagout procedures, weekly inspections, and the creation of a mechanism for employees to report any safety concerns about the facility anonymously.
"When safety policies exist only on paper, tragedies like this occur. Ajin knew its supervisors and managers were turning a blind eye to the company’s safety procedures," Jonathan D. Brightbill, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement.