ROCK FALLS – A forklift operator crushed to death under thousands of pounds of steel plates this summer did not have the load properly positioned and did not set the brakes to prevent the machine from moving, according to findings from a federal safety agency.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also found that his employer, IFH Group Inc., failed to give refresher training to Cody J. Bragg and other employees after in was discovered they were not using the forklifts safely, according to documents OSHA released Tuesday.
OSHA issued three "serious" violations and fined IFH $16,632, which must be paid by Feb. 22.
A serious violation is one in which there was a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and in which the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
IFH President Keith Ellefsen did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday. The violations must be fixed by Tuesday.
About 4:08 p.m. July 27, Whiteside County sheriff's deputies and other emergency agencies were called to IFH, which makes custom hydraulic oil reservoirs, fuel tanks, and lubrication storage and handling systems at 3300 E. Route 30.
Bragg, 23, of Sterling, had gotten out of the forklift cab and was crushed under several the steel sheets when they fell off the lift. He died at the scene.
According to OSHA, he did not lower the loader, neutralize the controls, or set the brakes to keep the machine from moving. In addition, the forklift's blades were not placed under the steel "as far back" as possible and the mast was not tilted backward, which would have stabilized the load.
Employers are responsible for ensuring a safe workplace and properly training their employees, OSHA spokesman Scott Allen said Tuesday.
"It's a terrible tragedy, but the machinery wasn't being used properly," Allen said.
OSHA investigators completed the investigation Jan. 24 and issued citations the next day.
The maximum fine for a serious violation is $7,000. OSHA assessed a fine of $6,930 for each of the three violations, $20,790 total, but the amount was reduced to $16,632 in an informal settlement agreement.
The document from OSHA