Fatalities lead to charges against firm’s president

OSHA investigations found safety violations

The deaths of two workers at Tewksbury (MA) Industries has company president Thomas E. Bowley facing two counts of manslaughter that could result in a 20-year prison sentence.

Criminal charges were filed because state prosecutors think Bowley was aware of the hazards that led to the deaths and failed to remedy them, explains David Burns, JD, assistant attorney general for the state of Massachusetts. The hazards had existed for several years at the scrap metal recycling plant before the men died in separate accidents, he says.

The first fatality occurred in July 1994, when 48-year-old Antonio Lopez was consumed by a huge metal shredder. The machine lacked a safety device that would have prevented a worker from being trapped by the rotating parts of a feed conveyor system. When the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the accident, the agency found multiple serious safety hazards, Burns says, including 47 specific violations for failing to adequately guard moving pulleys, rollers, and similar machinery where workers were potentially exposed to life-threatening injuries.

One year later, in July 1995, another employee was killed at the site. Thirty-one-year-old Earl Shikles was crushed to death by a front-end loader operated by another employee. The OSHA investigation following that accident revealed that the front-end loader had numerous safety defects, including inoperable brakes, a rag stuffed into the top of the loader’s hydraulic brake fluid reservoir instead of a cap, and no hydraulic fluid in the reservoir. In addition, no scheduled maintenance or safety inspections had been performed on the loader and many other vehicles and heavy equipment at the site.

The OSHA investigation also claimed company managers had been aware of the hazards posed by the faulty front-end loader for at least two months before the accident, yet continued to allow employees to operate the loader.

Bowley was indicted January 1997 and is awaiting trial.