U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

54-year-old employee loses 4 fingers at Wahlco recycling plant

OSHA also finds combustible dust hazards that could have caused an explosion

JACKSON, Mo. -- When U.S. Department of Labor inspectors entered a baby diaper recycling facility, they were investigating how a 54-year-old team leader had four fingers amputated in a recycling machine. Inside the Wahlco-D.W. Tool Inc. facility, Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors found conditions ripe for another tragedy: Extensive combustible dust and potential sources of ignition could have caused an explosion and fire at the plant.

On Aug. 17, OSHA cited the Jackson-based company for one repeated and 12 serious safety and health violations, including a lack of machine safety guards. Wahlco had been cited in 2013 for not having machine safety guards, which could have prevented the March 19, 2015, amputation. Proposed penalties total $74,480.

'One worker suffered a life-altering injury, and excessive combustible dust at Wahlco made for a disaster waiting to happen. An explosion could have injured dozens of employees,' said Bill McDonald, OSHA's area director in St. Louis. 'For the second time in two years, the company intentionally disregarded OSHA standards and requirements for machine safety - an unacceptable practice.'

OSHA inspectors also found the company:

  • Failed to train employees about machine hazards and combustible dust.
  • Did not turn off machinery before servicing.
  • Lacked housekeeping to control dust.
  • Operated an inadequate respiratory control program.
  • Did not provide personal protective equipment for employees working with energized electrical parts.

Many of these violations are among OSHA's most frequently cited, and can result in death or permanent disability.

To view current citations, visit http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Wahlco-DWToolInc_1060335.pdf* and

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's St. Louis Area Office at 314-425-4255.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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