GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - The widow of a factory worker who died while cleaning machinery has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Grand Rapids Plastics Inc., claiming unsafe equipment and inadequate training led to his death in June, 2014.
Russel J. Scharenbroch, a father of six, was fatally crushed while cleaning an injection molding machine at the Wyoming plant.
The lawsuit was filed in Kent County Circuit Court by Angel L. Scharenbroch and seeks more than $25,000 in damages.
Grand Rapids Plastics encouraged employees to “act in accordance with putting more importance on the desire for profit over the safety of employees,’’ the lawsuit claims.
Scharenbroch on June 27, 2014 climbed inside the machine to begin cleaning between two large steel molds. The machine was in auto mode at the time, meaning it was ready to operate, according to the lawsuit.
A team leader, unaware Scharenbroch was inside, instructed a technician to start the machine. The molds were brought together, crushing Scharenbroch. The 34-year-old Morley man was pronounced dead at 5:17 p.m.
Grand Rapids Plastics “had actual knowledge that an injury was certain to occur’’ and willfully or intentionally disregarded that knowledge on several fronts, the lawsuit claims.
It did not equip the machine with a safety gate to prevent an employee from entering the point of operation and failed to develop lockout procedures for injection molding machines.
Employees were allowed to enter the mold area of the machines without first locking out the power source, the lawsuit claims.
Workers were not adequately trained in lockout procedures and there was no system in place to confirm there was not a worker inside the injection molding machine before it was turned on, the lawsuit claims.
Intentional acts and omissions by the company led to Scharenbroch’s death, the lawsuit claims.
In an earlier interview with the Detroit Free Press, Angel L. Scharenbroch says she can't understand why no one saw her 6-foot, 200-pound husband inside the machine before someone turned it on, crushing him to death.
"Emotionally it’s been a nightmare for myself and my children," she told the newspaper.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration in April, 2015 assessed the company $558,000 in penalties. The citations and penalties are still under appeal and "awaiting a determination concerning criminal prosecution by the Michigan Department of Attorney General,'' state officials said Monday.
"There has been no settlement agreement entered modifying the penalties originally proposed,'' said Tanya Baker, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Grand Rapids Plastics ended operations at its Wyoming plant in April. The company began layoffs after losing contracts with Fiat Chrysler, its main customer. It made parts for the Chrysler 200.
Grand Rapids Plastics had four locations on Roger B. Chaffee Boulevard in Wyoming.
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