Goodyear to pay $1.75M after 4 deaths at Virginia factory
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Goodyear will pay $1.75 million to settle workplace health and safety violations at its Danville, Virginia, tire plant where four workers died on the job over the course of a year, officials announced Friday.
Goodyear, the United Steelworkers and the state Department of Labor and Industry reached a settlement agreement calling for the penalty and laying out a process to fix workplace hazards, the department said in a statement.
Between August 2015 and August 2016, four workers died at the plant near the North Carolina border that manufactures aviation and specialty tires. State inspectors conducted 11 inspections that resulted in more than 100 violations.
Among the workers killed was 53-year-old Charles “Greg” Cooper, who died of burns and drowning. His body was found in April in a pit of boiling water and oil, 6 feet, 8 inches deep. Investigators found that the floor around the pit was slick with oil, grease and slurry and the opening Cooper fell into had been unguarded for more than five months since a sump pump had been removed.
“While nothing will replace our sister and brothers who were fatally injured, the elements of the settlement agreement ... will greatly improve safety at the Danville plant,” Danny Barber, the local union chapter president said in a statement.
Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company will pay $1 million to the state, which will go into the general fund, assistant labor and industry Commissioner William Burge said. The remaining $750,000 can be used to fix hazards found in the inspections and to help meet the requirements of a workplace safety training program.
The department’s Occupational Safety and Health program issued the scores of violations in October, and the company contested them, which led to the settlement talks.
Among the more serious violations cited were those in Cooper’s death, along with instances in which dangerous machinery hadn’t been properly guarded.
The department said the lack of proper machine control-devices led to the death of Jeanie Strader, 56. Strader was attempting to straighten part of a machine in August 2015 when the operator turned it on and she became caught.
Six months later, 54-year-old Kevin Waid Edmonds was killed when he became pinned between a wall and a pallet containing rubber.
The fourth fatality occurred on Aug. 12, 2016, and violations in that death were detailed for the first time in Friday’s settlement agreement. William Scheier was adjusting a machine that hadn’t been properly turned off or shut down when it activated and a part struck him, according to a citation.
With around 2,200 workers, the plant is the largest employer in the city of about 42,000. It’s also one of the largest in the whole Southside region — which has struggled economically as the textile, tobacco and furniture industries have declined, Danville Mayor John Gilstrap said.
The plant, which marked its 50th anniversary in Danville in the fall, has “had a tremendous impact on the entire community,” he said.
The Associated Press couldn’t immediately reach relatives of the victims for comment.
A judge still must sign off on the settlement agreement. Burge said he expects the court documents to be filed within two weeks.