Alabama auto parts supplier fined after girl crushed to death by robot 2 weeks before wedding

CUSSETA, Ala. (WIAT) — An Alabama automotive parts supplier for Hyundai and Kia and two staffing agencies are facing a collective $2.5 million in fines after the horrifying death of a young woman.

The U.S. Department of Labor Wednesday announced that Ajin USA, Alliance Total Solutions and Joynus Staffing Corp. were cited for 27 safety violations after 20-year-old bride-to-be Regina Elsea was crushed to death inside a robotic machine at the Ajin facility in Cusseta, Alabama.

According to the Department of Labor, Elsea and three of her co-workers entered a robotic station on June 18, 2016 to clear a sensor fault when the robot abruptly restarted, crushing her inside. She died two weeks before her wedding day.

According to CBS affiliate WRBL, several people tried to work on it, but when Elsea tried, the machine started on its own and pinned her between two welding tips on a robotic arm. The robotic arm pushed her from the rear into the other machine she was standing in front of.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated after her death, and as a result issued “citations for 23 willful, serious and other-than-serious violations, including 19 egregious instance-by-instance willful violations, to Joon LLC, doing business as Ajin USA of Cusseta. OSHA also cited two staffing agencies – Alliance HR Inc., doing business as Alliance Total Solutions LLC and Joynus Staffing Corp. – for two serious safety violations each. Collectively, the three companies face $2,565,621 in penalties for the federal safety and health violations.”

OSHA says they issued willful citations to Ajin USA for:

  • Failing to utilize energy control procedures to prevent machinery from starting up during maintenance and servicing.
  • Exposing workers to caught-in, struck-by and crushing hazards by allowing them to enter a robotic cell without shutting down and securing hazardous stored energy according to safety procedures.
  • Failing to provide safety locks to isolate hazardous energy.
  • Exposing employees to crushing and amputation hazards due to improper machine guarding.

Assistant secretary of labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels says Elsea’s death was preventable. The Department of Labor says Michaels in 2015 went to Korea to meet with Kia and Hyundai to warn them about hazardous conditions at suppliers’ factories.

“This senseless tragedy could have been prevented if Regina Elsea’s employers had followed proper safety precautions,” said Michaels. “In addition, it is unfortunate that Hyundai and Kia, who set strict specifications on the parts they purchase from their suppliers, appear to be less concerned with the safety of the workers who manufacture those parts.”

Her mother says her employers have no idea what they have taken from those who loved her most.

“They have no idea what they took from me and my family. My world will never be the same again–she is my baby, my world, my everything,” she said.

OSHA says when Elsea wasn’t a temporary worker at the Cusseta facility, she was busy making final plans for her wedding and looking forward to her life with her husband-to-be.

“She loved everyone, was always smiling. No matter what life threw her way, she kept myself and her sister straight. She always made us laugh, never went a day without calling me. She was beautiful inside and out,” her mom said.

She told us Regina loved animals more than anything and was excited to get married.

“She was just starting her life; she had finally met the man she was going to marry,” her mom recalled.

According to the Department of Labor, the companies have 15 days to to contest the citations.

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