USDL finds 3M worker’s fatal injuries preventable

(ABC 6 News) – On Nov. 7, 2023 the U.S. Department of Labor’s investigation into a death at a 3M facility in Prairie du Chien, Wis. revealed the company willfully violated federal safety regulations.

In May of 2023, a 3M employee was killed after becoming caught in a particular machine’s rotating roller mechanism.

Investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that the company violated federal regulations for the control of hazardous energy, which is a classification associated with energy sources that can be hazardous to workers. That classification includes electric, hydraulic, chemical, or thermal energy sources, among others.

OSHA also found that the company allowed workers to circumvent particular safeguards associated with the machine that ultimately led to the worker’s death.

But these violations alone only represent one facet of why one of the world’s best known manufacturing companies has faced scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Back in February of 2022, an employee at a 3M facility in Alexandria, Minn. was killed in a separate workplace accident. That employee suffered fatal injuries while working with the same type of machinery that led to the most recent fatility at the Prairie du Chien plant.

“The tragedy of another employee’s death in Wisconsin is compounded by the fact that the 3M Company completed a corporate-wide review and determined powered rollers were hazards in need of safety improvements,” explained OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago. “The company must address these hazards immediately to protect employees from serious injuries or worse.”

According to a notice of penalty from OSHA, the agency cited 3M for two willful safety violations, costing the company $312,518 in proposed penalties.

3M, a Fortune 200 company, reported about $5.7 billion in profit in 2022.

The company now has 15 days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings.