BROOKE COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) – Broken bones, deep cuts, an amputated finger, and now, death—all injuries were reported at Jupiter Aluminum in Beech Bottom.
And just months ago, a man lost his life on the job. But a former employee said she warned the company about conditions that could cause these accidents.
WBOY’s sister station in Wheeling, 7News, investigated these concerns and tells what shocking things they found inside the plant.
“It’s a matter of who’s going to get killed, we just didn’t know when.”Tina Collier – Former Production Supervisor at Jupiter Aluminum
Tina Collier had been in manufacturing and construction her entire career and was hopeful when she took the job at Jupiter Aluminum.
She said she knew the plant was having safety issues when she was hired. And so did management; that’s why Tina felt they brought her in to help.
“And nine days in I contacted my prior safety manager to ask him whether or not I should quit because I had serious concerns about my legal liability if somebody should die on my watch.”Tina Collier – Former Production Supervisor at Jupiter Aluminum
She’s not the only one who saw issues at the plant.
7News sent a FOIA request to OSHA and received multiple complaints and allegations of unsafe practices.
After sifting through citations, work-related injury, and illness reports from OSHA when Jupiter Aluminum opened its doors, they found this:
- In 2018, there were four work-related injuries.
- In 2019, there were six, and one resulted in an employee losing the bottom half of their finger.
- In 2020, there were two work-related injuries.
- In 2021, two were hurt on the job.
- In 2022, someone lost their life.
At the time, 7News called Jupiter Aluminum, both the Beech Bottom and Indiana facilities, left multiple messages and did not receive a callback. Once they learned of the OSHA investigation, they reached out again with no response.
Collier says she saw a lot of what, in her opinion, were dangerous work practices, and she reported them to management and OSHA.
“Maintenance manager tells maintenance to build a homemade spreader bar using ratchet straps that are very clearly marked not to be used as a lifting device, to lift rolls that weigh almost 600 pounds.”Tina Collier – Former Production Supervisor at Jupiter Aluminum
OSHA regulations say machinery needs a protective guard around it to prevent injury and death.
“This particular slitter unit at the entry and exit of this line does not have any mechanism, no gate, no light curtain that says if a person walks up to this rotating mandrill, which at times can run 900 ft./min. and even faster. It’s spins quite rapidly, not to mention that sheet can also cut you. There’s nothing to stop you from walking up to it at all and it is required under law to be guarded, it is part of OSHA regulation.”Tina Collier – Former Production Supervisor at Jupiter Aluminum
So with all these accidents, was Jupiter Aluminum ever held accountable?
OSHA records show in 2019 Jupiter Aluminum paid $28,416 for one citation. Then another $7,594 in 2021 for three citations. As of May of 2022, months before the fatal accident, there were five citations totaling another $41,435.
Broken bones, amputations, lacerations, muscle strains, and plenty of alleged near misses were listed in the documents alongside the 2022 death.
Officials say Daniel Morris of Beech Bottom got caught in a mandrill in July and his injuries were so severe that he died.
7News talked to a former slitter operator who permitted us to use his video from the plant.
He trained Daniel and said he has been trying for eight years to get better safety guarding, like a light curtain to prevent anyone from getting hurt.
“The men deserve better, and this is a wake up call, you know I don’t want to see a broken finger, I don’t want to see a cut with three stitches in it. None of that is acceptable, let alone rising to the level that we’ve been rising to, between amputations and degloving and now death. It’s not okay.”Tina Collier – Former Production Supervisor at Jupiter Aluminum
Although she stayed for a year, Collier no longer works at Jupiter Aluminum. She said in her opinion, nothing was being done to make the plant any safer and that stress ultimately took a toll on her health.
OSHA told 7News they are still investigating Daniel Morris’s death.
Because of that, the documents related to that accident were not available.