Workforce safety investigators are looking into the accidental death of a worker at Moraine’s largest employer, a business fined last year by OSHA for multiple alleged “serious safety violations.”
The Tuesday early-morning death of Fuyao Glass America Inc. forklift operator Ricky Patterson of Dayton has renewed attention on safety at the Chinese automobile glass manufacturer.
Meanwhile, Fuyao called the 57-year-old Patterson a “valued colleague and friend,” and vowed to work with federal and state officials — calling company safety “the top priority.”
Patterson died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck in what has been ruled an accident, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. Moraine police and fire crews responded the Fuyao plant on West Stroop Road about 5:20 a.m. on a report of an accident involving a forklift driver, a statement from police said.
Patterson died after being crushed between a forklift and more than a ton of glass, Moraine police records show.
The accident was captured on the company’s cameras, the Moraine Police Division incident report states.
The Dayton man was found early Tuesday morning “wedged in between” the industrial machine and a pallet of glass, which had a tag indicating it weighed 2,097 pounds, the report states.
Fuyao said in a statement released Tuesday “the hearts and thoughts of Fuyao associates worldwide are with the employee’s family at this difficult time.”
“The investigation into the cause of this incident is ongoing,” according to the company’s statement. “We will be working closely alongside the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as they investigate. Safety is the top priority at Fuyao, and we are committed to providing a safe working environment for each of our valued employees.”
An OHSA spokesman told this news organization that the administration has opened an investigation into the fatality at Fuyao. OSHA will not have any further information until it completes the investigation, the spokesman said.
RELATED: Fuyao plant workers consider union
Workers have been concerned about safety since the plant opened, according to a man who identified himself as a former Fuyao employee.
“It has long been said that nothing will change in the plant until someone dies. Now, here we are,” John Durham said in a email Tuesday to this news organization.
Fuyao has activated its Employee Assistance Program and has “responders available to talk and counsel employees as we mourn the passing of our friend,” according to the company’s statement. “Out of respect for our employees and the family of the deceased, we ask for privacy at this time.”
Fuyao has held a high profile in the Dayton area since 2014. In January of that year, the company announced it would build its first North American automotive glass manufacturing facility at the former General Motors assembly plant in Moraine.
Fuyao’s plans were lauded by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and came with significant state and local incentives. When it opened, Fuyao initially announced it would hire 700 to 800 workers, but it continued to add jobs at the site shuttered by GM in late 2008.
Fuyao Chairman Cho Tak Wong bought 1.4 million square feet as part of a $360 million investment at the location. Today, the auto glass manufacturer employs about 2,000 workers.
In the past year, Fuyao workers have expressed concerns about company safety, OSHA has conducted investigations and some employees pushed for a union for collective bargaining units to help ensure safe workplace practices.
In June 2017, Fuyao was cited for alleged safety violations, according to the Cincinnati OHSA office. At that time, OSHA proposed total fines of $37,843, according to a letter to the company from OSHA dated June 12.
In November 2016, OSHA proposed $226,937 in penalties against Fuyao for 23 “serious safety violations and one other-than-serious violation.” The penalties were later resolved between Fuyao and OSHA, and the fines were reduced to $100,000.
That same month, Fuyao employees voted by a resounding margin against joining the United Auto Workers. The result rejected the union’s more than 18-month attempt to organize one of the Dayton area’s fastest-growing manufacturers in a fight that drew the international spotlight.
The final tally was 886 to 441, according to the National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the election.
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