Goodyear contests $1 million in fines in deaths

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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A Goodyear employee checks truck tires made at its Danville
plant. Photo courtesy The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.’s Danville plant is contesting more than $1 million in state penalties after four work-related deaths since August 2015.

“We have never had one company have four fatalities in a 12-month period,” says Jennifer Rose, safety director for the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health program (VOSH). “It’s not something that happens every day.”

The 50-acre Danville plant, which makes aviation and specialty tires, employs about 1,200 workers.

After performing safety and health inspections, VOSH cited the plant for four willful, 115 serious and three other-than-serious violations along with $1.01 million in penalties.

On the same day, VOSH also cited the company for two willful and two serious violations along with $152,600 in penalties in connection with the April 12 death of employee Charles “Greg” Cooper. His body was found in a six-foot pit/sump containing boiling water and oil.

VOSH also issued one serious violation and a $7,000 penalty in response to an April 25, 2016 nonfatal accident.

“We had issued two previous fines for the first two fatalities,” Rose says. Those were for violations connected to the Aug. 31, 2015, death of Jeanie Strader and the March 31, 2016, death of Kevin Waid Edmonds.

Goodyear has contested all of the violations and penalties. Employers have 15 days after a citation is issued to challenge the citations or correct them. “What Goodyear is saying by contesting them is that they don’t agree in being cited,” says Rose.

When violations are contested, employers are not required to make corrections until the case is either settled or tried in court. “We try to work with the company to reach an agreeable settlement and if that can’t be done, the cases get litigated,” Rose says. “If it’s litigated, the citations surrounding it have to be corrected.”

Some of the more serious violations concern safety requirements in the service and repair of dangerous machinery. William Christopher Scheier, the plant’s fourth fatality, was killed Aug. 12 while performing maintenance on a machine. An investigation into his death is continuing.

Ohio-based Goodyear isn’t commenting on the cases but released a statement saying it is following a standard process in responding to citations.

The company added that it is “committed to the health and safety of all its associates. We will work with VOSH and the United Steel Workers to implement any necessary additional corrective actions to our Danville plant, beyond those we have already identified ourselves and are addressing.”

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