OSHA cites Mid-Nebraska Disposal in Grand Island following employee death

Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 11:57 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2022 at 1:22 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - A 20-year-old worker’s attempt at clearing a jam in an industrial cardboard baler at a Grand Island waste disposal company turned tragic when the worker fell into the baler, became caught and suffered severe amputation injuries. He later died from his injuries.

OSHA alleges the employer disregarded federal regulations designed to prevent such tragedies.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration at Mid-Nebraska Disposal Inc. found the worker, identified as Gavin Schwartz, was feeding cardboard waste into the baler on Feb. 7, when debris jammed the machine. As the young worker tried to remove the stuck cardboard, Schwartz fell into the machine, where he was severely injured. He died the next day at a hospital.

OSHA alleges the company failed to ensure energy sources were locked out, which would have kept the machine’s operating parts from moving while the worker cleared the jam.

The agency cited Mid-Nebraska Disposal for 18 violations – two willful, 15 serious, and one other-than-serious – involving machine safety, permit-required confined space safety requirements, training and fall hazards. OSHA proposed penalties of $337,903, and has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

“A 20-year-old’s life was cut short needlessly; he was on the job for just nine months. Employers are legally obligated to safeguard dangerous machinery and use required safety procedures for entering confined spaces,” said OSHA Area Director Matt Thurlby in Omaha. “Employers must follow all safety precautions and train workers to de-energize and lock out a machine before clearing jams or providing service or maintenance to prevent serious or fatal injuries.”

Local4 reached out to Mid-Nebraska Disposal about the citations, and they gave this comment.

“We are still grieving the loss of our employee, some citations were issued. We are confident no willful violations were committed.”

OSHA inspectors identified several violations for permit-required confined spaces, including failing to develop procedures, train workers, recognize hazards, place attendants outside when an employee enters, and ensuring emergency services are available.

The agency also cited Mid-Nebraska Disposal for exposing workers to slip and fall hazards from debris on the floors and from workers having to climb up railings to enter the machine. Inspectors also found an active rodent and vermin infestation in the facility.

Based in Grand Island, Mid-Nebraska Disposal offers residential, commercial, industrial/construction, recycling and compost services to 15 Nebraska communities.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


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