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Alabama sawmill faces $2.5M in fines for safety violations and fatality.

US Department of Labor Proposes $2.5 Million in Penalties for Alabama Sawmill

Phenix Lumber Co. Faces Consequences for Willful Disregard of Safety

On February 22, 2024, the US Department of Labor announced proposed penalties of nearly $2.5 million for Phenix Lumber Co., a sawmill in Phenix City, Alabama. This action comes in response to a tragic incident in August 2023 that resulted in the death of a 67-year-old sawmill supervisor.

Details of the Incident

During the investigation, it was revealed that the employee had climbed on top of an auger to unclog a woodchipper, a task that could have been avoided with proper safety measures in place. Due to the employer’s failure to protect the worker, the machine started while he was on top of the auger, leading to a fatal injury.

Violations and Penalties

OSHA cited Phenix Lumber Co. with 22 willful violations, one repeat violation, and five serious violations, totaling $2,471,683 in proposed penalties. The violations included failures to implement energy control procedures, provide training on safety measures, maintain machine guarding, and ensure fall protection for employees.

Previous History

This is not the first time Phenix Lumber Co. has faced scrutiny from OSHA. The company had been inspected four times in the past five years, with a previous fatality inspection in 2020 resulting in citations for willful and serious violations.

Implementing Workplace Safety Measures

Employers in the HSE domain can learn from this incident and take proactive steps to ensure the safety of their workers. Some practical tips for implementing safety measures in the workplace include:

  • Ensure employees receive proper training on safety procedures
  • Implement energy control procedures to prevent unexpected machine start-ups
  • Maintain machine guarding to prevent amputation hazards
  • Provide fall protection for employees working at heights
  • Maintain fire extinguishers in a fully charged and operable condition
  • Comply with OSHA standards and guidelines for workplace safety


Employers have a legal responsibility to provide safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. By following safety guidelines and implementing proper measures, tragic incidents like the one at Phenix Lumber Co. can be prevented. For more information on workplace safety and health programs, employers can visit OSHA’s website and access compliance assistance resources.

Remember, the well-being of workers should always be a top priority in any workplace environment.

Reference: US Department of Labor proposes nearly $2.5 million in penalties for Alabama sawmill, finds willful disregard for safety led to fatality

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