As a production manager attempted to clear plastic parts stuck in a thermo-forming machine, he became trapped when the machine’s conveyor cycled automatically and was fatally crushed at a Cambridge plastics plant.
A federal workplace safety investigation of the Nov. 17, 2021, incident by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that if Encore Industries Inc. – operating as Encore Plastics Corp./IPL Global – had remedied failures that contributed to the incident, the company could have prevented the tragedy.
Specifically, the investigation determined that the company continued to perform service and maintenance tasks after identifying that machine components continued to move after opening an interlocked machine enclosure door. The company also failed to ensure its energy control procedures, Machine Safety Lockout Tagout Procedures, included steps needed to shut down and de-energize the machine. OSHA also found Encore Industries failed to audit machine safety procedures periodically for effectiveness and train employees on their use.
Compounding the tragedy, investigators learned that two similar incidents occurred on the same machine – one on the day of the fatal incident and another two days prior – adding to the tragic nature of the investigation. In the two prior incidents, workers barely escaped injury.
“Our investigation found Encore Industries removed jams and performed other service and maintenance tasks with the knowledge that its inadequate and failing Machine Safety Lockout Tagout Procedures exposed its workers to the risks associated with moving machine parts,” said OSHA Area Director Larry M. Johnson in Columbus, Ohio. “The company ignored reports of malfunctioning equipment and near misses. By doing so, Encore Industries failed to prevent this terrible tragedy and the avoidable loss of a family member and co-worker.”
During its investigation at Encore, OSHA opened a second investigation after a complaint alleged safety hazards in its warehouse. There, investigators found the company had failed to train workers on safe operation of forklifts and did not keep passageways and emergency exits clear or adequately marked, as the law requires.
In total, the investigations led OSHA to issue citations for one willful, one repeat, five serious and two other safety violations to Encore Industries. In 2020, OSHA issued citations to Encore Industries for violating lockout/tag out standards twice at this facility.
Encore Industries is a subsidiary of IPL, a global packaging provider for food, consumer, agricultural, logistics and environmental end-markets. The company manufactures products at 20 facilities located in Canada, the U.S., Ireland, the U.K., and China, and operates three research and development facilities in Canada and the U.S. Its Cambridge facility manufactures plastic buckets, lids and paint trays.
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