The U.S. Department of Labor is issuing fines totaling more than $2.5 million against a Chambers County auto parts supplier and two staffing agencies after an east Alabama woman was crushed to death earlier this year two weeks before her wedding.
According to a Department of Labor news release, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a total of 27 citations against Ajin USA of Cusseta, and two staffing agencies – Alliance Total Solutions and Joynus Staffing Corp. – for safety violations.
The fines come in response to the June 18 death of Regina Allen Elsea, 20, a Five Points woman who the agency says was crushed to death in a robotic machine.
According to investigators, Elsea, along with three coworkers, entered a robotic station to clear a sensor after the assembly line stopped. The robot then unexpectedly restarted, crushing her to death inside the machine.
Elsea was transported to East Alabama Medical Center. She was later flown to UAB Hospital where she died of her injuries.
Ajin USA makes parts for Hyundai and Kia. There are about 700 workers employed there. Alliance and Joynus, with offices in Opelika, provide about 250 temporary workers to Ajin USA, the department stated.
In a statement, Ajin USA said the company will “continue to cooperate and work with OSHA throughout the investigation.” Ajin said it cooperated with OSHA’s investigation, provided full access to the plant and all employees for interviews, and copies of all documents, drawings and photos requested. The company also conducted an internal investigation.
“We at Ajin remain deeply saddened over the tragic accident that took the life of one of our valued teammates,” the statement said. “Our deepest sympathy and prayers are with her family and loved ones during this most difficult time. Team members are members of our own Ajin family and team safety has always been our guiding principle.”
Attempts to contact Alliance Total Solutions and Joynus for comment were not immediately successful.
Elsea was hired through Alliance Total Solutions.
David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said the “senseless tragedy” could have been prevented by following safety precautions.
Among the citations to Ajin USA were:
“Failing to utilize energy control procedures to prevent machinery from starting up during maintenance and servicing.”
“Exposing workers to caught-in, struck-by and crushing hazards by allowing them to enter a robotic cell without shutting down and securing hazardous stored energy according to safety procedures.”
“Failing to provide safety locks to isolation hazardous energy.”
“Exposing employees to crushing and amputation hazards due to improper machine guarding.”
The companies have 15 business days to contest the findings.
Elsea, at the time of her death, was remembered as a quiet woman who opened up to friends, loved spaghetti and her dog “Cow.” In her obituary, her family called attention to her impending wedding.
“After years of searching, she had finally met the love of her life, and future husband, Joshua Daniel,” it stated. “Regina’s life though cut much too short had made a great impression on everyone. Her love and devotions to family and friends, her beautiful angelic face with her glowing smile will forever be implanted in the hearts of all who knew her.”