Goodyear fined more than $1 million for safety violations at Danville plant following deaths

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DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) Goodyear is being fined more than $1 million for serious safety and health violations. Four people have died on the job at the Danville plant within a year.

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) program issued four willful, 115 serious and three other than serious violations and $1,012,400 in penalties on October 7 as a result of comprehensive safety and health inspections.
Click here to see the entire news release from VOSH.

"Goodyear is committed to the health and safety of all its associates. We are reviewing the citations received from the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) program office this week and will work with VOSH and the United Steel Workers to implement any necessary additional corrective actions at our Danville plant, beyond those we have already identified ourselves and are addressing," Goodyear said in a statement released Thursday.

The VOSH Program also issued two willful, two serious violations and $152,600 in penalties on October 7, 2016 in response to the April 12, 2016 death of 53-year-old Charles “Greg” Cooper, an 18-year Goodyear employee. He died from burns and drowning when his body was found in a 6-foot, 8-inch deep pit/sump containing boiling water and oil.

The VOSH Program also issued one serious violation and a $7,000 penalty on October 7, 2016 in response to an April 25, 2016 nonfatal accident where an employee was burned by steam while attempting to retest a tire curing press with a co-worker.

Among the more serious violations cited, were instances of improper machine guarding and violations of lockout/tagout requirements. These standards require that dangerous machinery is guarded to prevent accidental contact and that all of a machine’s energy sources are deenergized and locked out to prevent inadvertent movement while workers are exposed to hazards when servicing or repairing machinery.

Workers exposed to machinery without energy-control devices are in jeopardy of losing a limb or even their life, as was the case with the August 31, 2015 death of Jeanie Strader, 56, at the Danville facility. VOSH issued three serious violations and $16,975.00 in penalties in that case on February 25, 2016, which have been contested by the company.

Once a case is contested, employers are not required to correct cited violations until the case is either settled or tried in the Circuit Court for the city or county where the alleged violation occurred.

Two subsequent deaths at the Danville plant on March 31, 2016, involving the death of Kevin Waid Edmonds, 54, and Charles "Greg" Cooper on April 12, 2016 prompted VOSH to conduct the comprehensive inspections.

While these inspections were still open, a fourth person died at the plant on August 12, 2016. William Christopher Scheier was 47. This incident again involved a worker engaged in maintenance activities getting caught in a machine that was not deenergized and locked out.

The second and third deaths, two comprehensive inspections, a non-fatal steam burn accident investigation and a fingertip amputation have resulted in citations.

The VOSH investigation into the fourth fatality is ongoing.

Goodyear Tire and Rubber has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with VOSH's Roanoke Regional Director, or contest the citations and penalties.

WDBJ7 spoke with Danville's mayor John Gilstrap who said that Goodyear is a centerpiece in Danville's economy. He is concerned about the employees and any negative impact the fines may create for the plant.

"Many people either work for Goodyear or retired from Goodyear or have relatives that worked for Goodyear. It's not just 2,100 employees, it's the whole region," Gilstrap said.

WDBJ7 reached out to the plant's local and national union representatives Thursday. The local union said that it is still reviewing the citations and would not comment. The national union also would not talk on camera.

The national union for the Goodyear plant said that a $1 million fine is large for Virginia. It was expecting significant fines after four deaths at the Danville plant in a 1-year period. The national union said that it is working very closely with the local union because the national union realizes the severe and serious emotional affects losing 4 employees in a year can have on those still working there.