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Subject: OSHA clears J.R. Wheel for restart; Worker at the factory was killed over weekend in incident with robot

Date: 01/18/02 at 11:04 PM
Posted by: Bryan Haywood
E-mail: Bhaywood@fuse.net
Message Posted:

OSHA clears J.R. Wheel for restart; Worker at the factory was killed over weekend in incident with robot

BY STEPHEN DYER, Beacon Journal staff writer

NORTON: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has allowed J.R. Wheel to start making wheels again. A robot at the factory killed a worker over the weekend, but OSHA officials said employees should not be concerned that a similar incident could happen again. ``We are comfortable that they have proper lockout procedures,'' said OSHA's Clevelandarea Director Rob Medlock. The agency has determined that the robot on which Tyron Watson, 48, was working early Saturday morning was not properly ``de-energized.'' So when he walked into the cage that houses the robot to work on it, the robot re-activated and smashed him into a conveyor belt, killing him. Medlock said the company has a proper ``lockout'' procedure that, if followed, would make the robot immobile and incapable of functioning when a human is in the cage. The operator has to put a lock on the machine so it can't ``energize,'' Medlock said. Lonnie Hinton, J.R. Wheel's human resources director, said the company received the go-ahead to resume operations from OSHA on Monday afternoon. He said the company has set up grief counseling sessions with employees as they return to work. Some workers have taken advantage of the sessions, he said. Other employees apparently remain fearful of returning to work. The wife of an employee said yesterday that she won't let her husband return to work until she is satisfied Saturday's tragedy can't happen again. ``I've seen (robots) just start flinging wheels (in the cage),'' said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her husband's identity. ``It's basically a human being. You can trust them, but you've just got to know what you're doing.'' Medlock said the agency will take several weeks to determine, among other things, if Saturday's accident was caused by operator error, or if the company's procedures at the time were inadequate to avoid the accident.

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