East Alabama woman, 20, killed from workplace incident at Ajin USA
CHAMBERS COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - Chambers County investigators shared what they believe led up to a 20-year-old woman being impaled and crushed at an automotive supplier on June 18.
The victim has been identified as Regina Elsea, who was newly-engaged and planning her wedding. She was critically-injured Saturday, then died on Sunday.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA - has taken the lead on the investigation into the death at Ajin USA in Cusseta, AL.
On Saturday around 11:00 a.m, Chambers County investigators say the machine on Elsea's line quit working, witnesses on her team told investigators they tried to inform maintenance to the problem so they could come fix it.
"They stated they did try to notify maintenance, but to no avail, they did not answer the phone, so no one came to their line to fix the problem," Chambers Co. Sheriff's Office Investigator Shannon Fraley said. "My understanding is the victim walked around to the back side of the machine with her back turned to the robot and pushed something on the machine and it engaged and pushed her from the rear crushing her against another machine."
Investigators say Elsea was impaled by two welding tips, as she was crushed between two machines. Fraley says it appears the machine was not "locked out, tagged out" meaning it wasn't turned off. He says that's standard safety protocol for most manufactures when a repair is being made.
"In fact, when I arrived I had to ask them to do it. It still had not been locked out tagged out, even after the incident had taken place," said Fraley.
The question remains, was proper safety protocols and procedures being followed at the time of the 20-year-old's death? Before we could get to the door, security at Ajin USA turned us away and asked us to leave the property.
Ajin USA management did release a statement, but it did not specifically address if safety protocols were being followed at the time of Elsea's accident.
The statement, sent from David Wilkerson, General Manager of HR and Administration with Ajin USA, reads:
Ajin USA is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Regina Elsea. Ajin takes any accident seriously, and a full investigation is being carried out into the full details of the incident. In the meantime, Ajin USA is retraining all employees on Ajin USA's safety precautions. Ajin USA will fully cooperate with the appropriate authorities, including OSHA, during the investigation process. The safety of our employees has been and continues to be our greatest priority.
It could take months for OSHA to release their findings.
According to the OSHA website, they have investigated four complaints at Ajin USA. One complaint in 2011 led to Ajiin being fined an initial penalty of $14,500.
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