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Lifting Magnet Problems Lead to Severe Accident at Fab Company

A 1,254-pound counterweight fell from a below-the-hook magnet.

On June 7, 2022, a worker at Kewaunee Fabrications in Kewaunee, Wisconsin, was using an Eriez XPL-15/9 Close Proximity Operated Lifting Magnet when a 1,254-pound counterweight fell from the below-the-hook magnet and crushed the employee’s leg.

The worker was hospitalized and the accident initiated an OSHA investigation. The company now faces more than $250,000 in penalties for one willful and 11 serious safety violations. 

OSHA found the heavy fabrication manufacturing company exposed workers to an unguarded machine point of operation that didn't prevent workers from being in the danger zone while straightening parts.

According to OSHA, the Eriez magnet had metal build-up and pitting on the contact surface that wasn't removed prior to use. OSHA found several issues at Kewaunee, most that stemmed from challenges with lifting magnets. 

For example, about two weeks after the accident, employees were using a pair of battery-powered magnets to move metal parts despite the fact that they had both failed  breakaway force tests.

According to OSHA, the company is taking the accident seriously, with safety reps documenting problems and finding solutions to make sure they remain compliant going forward. 

Robert Bonack, OSHA's area director in Appleton, Wisconsin reminds manufacturers that they must constantly review safety procedures and equipment to make sure all points of operations are guarded, equipment is in safe working condition and workers are trained to recognize hazards.

Kewaunee Fabrications makes aerial ladders and mounting plates used on fire trucks. The company has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference or contest the findings. Among other methods, OSHA says one way to fix the problem is to ensure that the magnets are inspected before use and in accordance with the manufacturers’ specifications. 

The company has not yet responded to our request for comment.

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