Danville, Virginia.—At least three investigations into the death of a worker, the second in two weeks and the third in eight months, are being conducted at the Danville tire production plant.
Goodyear and the United Steelworkers union are conducting one probe while the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health agency and local police officials are conducting their own investigations.
The latest death occurred on 12 April when Greg Cooper, who had worked at the factory for 18 years, died from burns and drowning, according to the office of the chief medical examiner in Roanoke, Va.
A maintenance mechanic, Cooper was 52 years old, a company spokeswoman said.
In a prepared statement issued shortly after the latest accident, Goodyear said the plant's “on-site emergency response team, as well as local emergency personnel responded immediately, and all parties are cooperating in the investigation into the root cause of the incident.”
It said the company “is taking this matter very seriously” and reported the death to OSHA, which in turn launched its inspection of the facility.
Goodyear temporarily closed the Danville plant to complete a full evaluation of the factory and thoroughly investigate the incident, it said. The shutdown occurred April 12, and the plant reopened on April 15.
“Our hearts go out to the family, friends and co-workers of the employee during this very difficult time,” the company said.
In a second statement, plant Manufacturing Director Greg Kerr said the company's “immediate priority is to provide support and assistance to Greg's family, as well as the entire team of associates in the Danville plant as we cope with the loss of a teammate.”
On the day the factory resumed normal operations, Goodyear issued another statement in which it noted that the investigations are ongoing.
“As associates return to their jobs,” the tire maker said in the statement, “the plant team will be keeping the safety and well-being of our associates as the highest priority.
“At the start of each shift, plant associates participated in a two-hour safety meeting where they were given the opportunity to ask questions and share any comments they may have.”
Goodyear also continued to provide counselors onsite throughout the following week.
The Goodyear spokeswoman said the company will not provide further comment on the active investigations or the first accident at the factory in August 2015.
Mike Wright, director of health, safety and environment for the United Steelworkers, said the union was conducting a joint investigation with the tire maker into what caused the latest fatality and the accident that led to the death of another plant employee—54-year-old Kevin Edmonds—March 31 in an industrial accident.
An autopsy revealed that the cause of Edmonds death was asphyxiation.
The USW sent an investigator to the Danville plant immediately after it learned about the accident, he said.
“We look at root causes and other contributing factors,” Wright said. OSHA, on the other hand, is primarily looking at violations of standards.
“There are lots of issues that must be reviewed,” he said, adding that he could not supply further specifics about the probe at this point. The investigation, while not complete, will be thorough, he added. He did not have a timetable on when he thought the probe would be complete.
Jennifer L. Rose, Virginia Occupational Safety and Health safety compliance director with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, said after VOSH was notified of the death at the Danville factory, it too initiated another inspection at the facility.
The agency was already in the midst of conducting an inspection of the plant following the March 31 death of Edmonds. That investigation has not been closed.
“I cannot comment on the status of any open inspections, such as this one,” Rose said. Once the investigation has been closed, VOSH will post any citations issued on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration web page.
She said the agency has up to six months from the opening of the inspection to issue any citations.
On 31 Aug, 2015, the Danville facility suffered the first of the three deaths when 56-year-old Jeanie Strader, a 15-year veteran of the company, was killed after being caught in machine rollers, according to an OSHA document. She was employed at Goodyear as a windup operator and roll changer.
Goodyear recently was fined $16,975 by OSHA for three serious violations at the Danville factory following an inspection after Strader's death.