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After the hand of a worker at Apache Mills Inc. in Calhoun, Ga., was punctured and injected with fluid while on the job, investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found the company in violation of nine safety violations and has levied $51,000 in penalties against it.

According to a U.S. Department of Labor news release, an unidentified 42-year-old Apache employee was performing maintenance on a machine recently when a hydraulic hose injected his left hand with fluid.

The man was hospitalized and required a surgical shunt to drain the fluid and reduce swelling.

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Apache, a global floor mat manufacturer with 800 employees in Calhoun, was cited by OSHA for failing to properly guard the machine.

"All of this could have been avoided if the machine had been properly guarded," said Benjamin Ross, deputy regional administrator for enforcement programs at the U.S. Department of Labor's Atlanta office. "That's what the citation was issued for."

Following the puncture accident, Apache was cited for seven serious safety violations, including failure to load test a lifting device, failure to provide safe access to equipment, failure to properly test electrical equipment and failure to properly train employees, among others.

The sum of all nine violation penalties, including two non-serious violations, is $51,000.

Apache Mills has 15 working days — excluding weekends and federal holidays — to either contest the violations, request a conference to discuss the penalties with OSHA representatives or pay the penalties.

OSHA representatives said Tuesday afternoon that Apache had not taken any action. The deadline for the company to respond is Oct. 26.

Ross said the violations found at Apache and the subsequent penalties are not out of the ordinary. Around 80 percent of safety inspections result in violation citations, he said.

And penalties can range from as little as $1,000 to as much as $500,000, or more. OSHA considers a handful of factors when issuing penalties, including a company's safety record and its good faith actions (immediate resolution of violations).

Apache had been cited six times in the past 10 years for violations, three of them serious, with just over $5,500 in penalties prior to the most recent bout of violations.

Company officials did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

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