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ABC Polymer Pleads Guilty in Worker Death Case

In 2017, a worker became ensnared in a cluster of moving sheet extrusion rollers, which ultimately caused his death.

January 13, 2023

3 Min Read
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Image courtesy of GettyImages/Bill Oxford

ABC Polymer Industries LLC has pleaded guilty to a willful violation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard that caused a worker’s death, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in a news release published on Jan. 11, 2023.

The charge involves an Aug. 16, 2017, incident at ABC Polymer’s Helena, AL, plant in which a worker was pulled into a cluster of unguarded moving rollers and killed, writes the DOJ on its website. US District Judge Annemarie Carney Axon for the Northern District of Alabama accepted the plea on Jan. 10. The class B misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of a $500,000 fine, or twice the financial gain to the defendant, or twice the financial loss to another, whichever is greater, and restitution to the victim. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 24.

As reported in PlasticsToday, the DOJ and US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama filed criminal charges against ABC Polymer in August 2019. According to court documents cited by the DOJ in the news release, ABC Polymer operated multiple plastic extrusion lines at its facility. The machinery pulled the sheets through a series of rollers arranged in clusters before cutting them into plastic threads or tapes, which were sold for use in various products. The machine that caused the worker’s death was equipped with a cage, or barrier guard, that could be pulled down over one of the exposed sides of the rollers. OSHA standards require moving machinery such as this to be guarded while the machine is energized.

The DOJ release goes on to say that ABC Polymer was aware that its employees routinely raised the guard on its machines to cut tangled plastic off the rollers, thereby operating the machines without the required guarding. ABC Polymer also trained its employees to cut tangled plastic off the rollers while the rollers were in operation. The company admitted that it knew or should have known that these practices exposed employees to a risk of injuries and death in violation of federal law, said the DOJ.

“This victim’s tragic death was entirely preventable,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Employers who willfully violate OSHA standards are gambling with their employees’ health and lives. We will continue to hold accountable those who fail to follow these critical safety rules.”

“This tragic loss of life could have been avoided by following federal safety standards,” added US Attorney Prim F. Escalona for the Northern District of Alabama. “We are grateful for the work of our OSHA partners in holding employers accountable for the safety of their employees. My office will use the tools available to us to protect Alabama workers and prosecute employers who willfully violate federal safety laws.”

This case was investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US Department of Labor.

Trial Attorneys Ethan Eddy and William Shapiro of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant US Attorneys Robert Posey and Ryan Rummage for the Northern District of Alabama are prosecuting the case.

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