The tragic death of 16-year-old Michael Schuls at a sawmill was not a 'freak accident' but a common 'lockout-tagout' incident. In this incident, the teenager became entangled in a machine that was still powered while attempting to unjam it.
This type of incident is preventable by shutting down and locking out machines during repairs, but media reports continue to characterize such incidents as 'freak accidents,' creating the impression that they are unforeseeable and unpreventable.
Clearly, if there is an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard covering the cause of the death, it cannot be considered a freak accident.
Adding to the tragedy is the fact that the 16-year-old was working in a place where he should not have been employed.
The U.S. Department of Labor acted against the sawmill operator, requiring them to implement safety measures to prevent children under 18 from using dangerous equipment and entering certain areas.
Florence Hardwoods agreed to pay $190,696 in civil money penalties. An OSHA investigation into the death continues and will likely result in additional penalties.
The teenager’s death highlights the broader issue of child labour violations in the US, where there’s been a recent increase in such cases and even efforts in some states to make it easier for children to work in hazardous jobs.
In 2022, US employers reportedly received $4.3 million in penalties for child labour violations.
Source: Confined Space 11 September