Company News

Extrudex Charged with Obstruction After Worker’s Death

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Extrudex Aluminum has been charged with misprision of a felony to obstruct justice in relation to an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration following the death of a worker at its plant in North Jackson in 2012.

“As charged in the information, from April 1, 2016, through January 1, 2018, Extrudex, through its employees, concealed felony obstruction of justice offenses from Extrudex management in Canada and further failed to inform law enforcement of the commission of those offenses,” said a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, northern district office.

A representative from the plant declined to comment on the charges.

In October, two supervisors at North Jackson plant – general manager Brian Carder and safety coordinator Paul Love – were each charged with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and obstruction of proceedings. Love was also charged with a count of making false statements to law enforcement.

Both pleaded not guilty and were released on bond after being ordered to have no contact with Extrudex and to surrender their passports and travel documents.

The charges stem from the 2012 death of John Tomlin Jr. of Niles, who was killed when racks containing hot aluminum product weighing between 4,000 and 5,000 tipped over while on a conveyor belt, crushing him. A second worker was hospitalized with severe burns, according to the Department of Justice.

In the years leading up to Tomlin’s death, several emails were sent or received by Carder and Love regarding the safety of the conveyor system. On Dec. 3, 2009, Carder wrote in an email, the earliest reported by the Department of Justice, to Love and other employees that the system was “in need of dire attention” and the problems “must be a priority or someone is going to get seriously hurt.” Emails regarding safety of the conveyor belt were sent as late as Oct. 26, 2012, just four days before the accident.

In April 2013, OSHA cited Extrudex with eight safety violations, including two willful violations, that resulted in Tomlin’s death. The citation proposed a fine of $175,000. The willful violations included “exposing workers to struck-by, pinned-under and burned-by hazards from hot metal racks and hot aluminum products, which could weigh as much as 8,000 pounds, and for failing to provide sufficient, safe clearance for workers operating in Oven One and Oven Two where aluminum extrusions are treated,” the citation announcement said.

The other violations included failing to provide personal protective equipment in the ovens, having first-aid responders at the facility, developing a written hazard assessment for unloading hot aluminum, ensuring the lockout procedure for ovens was used, conducting inspections of energy control procedures and addressing steps in emergency control procedures to reduce thermal energy to a safe level.

Extrudex disputed the charges, stating at the time, “Extrudex disagrees with the findings of OSHA, which are only proposed at this point in time. Extrudex will dispute the claims within 15 days of the citation … and will pursue its remedies at the administrative level and judicial level if necessary.”

A spokesman added at the time that the plant was “one of the safest in the country.”

“While it is unfortunate to have lost a valued employee, we believe there is nothing the company could have done to prevent this tragedy,” he continued. “Upon the company’s review of its safety procedures and training programs, we remain convinced that at the end of the OSHA review process, we will demonstrate that we continue to maintain a safe environment for our employees.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.