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State issues fine for Raleigh recycling center fatality

Posted March 22, 2011

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— The state Department of Labor on Monday fined a South Carolina company $9,550 for violations found at a Raleigh recycling plant after a worker was killed on the job in November.

Simon Martinez, 39, died Nov. 3 at Sonoco Recycling, at 111 S. Rogers Lane.

Inspectors determined that the forklift Martinez operated had been modified by replacing the original forks with a 1,250-pound steel scoop to handle waste paper and attaching the scoop to the vehicle's hydraulic system. The manufacturer wasn't notified of the modifications, and the changes weren't listed in safety materials to reflect any impact on the forklift's operation, according to inspectors.

The DOL said the modifications were a serious violation and fined Sonoco Products Co. $6,300 for it. The maximum fine allowed under state law for a serious workplace safety violation is $7,000.

Inspectors also found that a welding cart containing oxygen cylinders and a torch was stored near 55-gallon drums of petroleum products at the recycling plant. The DOL issued a $3,250 fine for that violation.

"The penalties are in no way designed to make up for loss of life," DOL spokesman Neal O'Briant said in a statement. "Fines are issued to penalize the offending employer but also to get the attention of other employers with similar work environments."

Sonoco Products has 15 business days to contest the fines.

3 Comments

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  • ncdixie1 Mar 22, 2011

    Good question, I wondered the same thing.

  • reincarnatedasme Mar 22, 2011

    Using an improperly modified forklift is improper use in itself.

  • whatelseisnew Mar 22, 2011

    Did the modification cause the death or did improper usage of the fork lift cause the death?