The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed $45,550 in penalties against Lumber One Company in Littleville, Ala., for 22 serious violations of federal workplace safety standards following a fatality at the plant in May 2007.

OSHA opened an investigation after being informed of the incident where a piece of lumber kicked back from an automatic multi-blade rip saw, hitting the operator and causing a fatal bruise to his heart.

"Rip saws are engineered with multiple safety features to prevent this kind of incident, but the employer's failure to keep the machines in good working order led to this death," said Roberto Sanchez, director of OSHA's Birmingham area office.

OSHA inspectors found that the saw's safety features, which were designed to prevent a board from pushing back against the operator, were worn and broken. In addition, an excessive amount of sawdust was allowed to accumulate near the machine, causing fire and other hazards. Further inspection of the other two rip saws indicated the same deficiencies, which the employer has since corrected.

Other safety violations included tripping hazards created by poor housekeeping, lack of machine guards, electrical hazards, inadequate training for maintenance staff, and no lockout/tagout procedures in place to prevent inadvertent machine start-ups.

The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.