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Florence sawmill fined $1.4M by Department of Labor following teen's death

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Posted at 3:50 PM, Dec 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-19 20:24:22-05

FLORENCE (NBC 26) — Florence Hardwoods is facing $1.4 million in fines from the Department of Labor "after allowing teens to operate dangerous machinery."

Florence High School student Michael Schuls died from injuries he sustained at the sawmill over the summer. The Labor Department said the 16-year-old got trapped in a stick stacker machine as he tried to unjam it on June 29. Schuls died at a hospital two days later.

“There is no excuse for allowing underage workers to operate this type of machinery,” Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su said in the release. “Federal child labor and safety regulations exist to prevent employers from putting children at risk. They also exist to hold employers like Florence Hardwoods accountable for endangering these young workers.”

The Labor Department said OSHA investigators found Florence Hardwoods failed to train teenage and adult employees in safety procedures to prevent dangerous equipment from moving while doing work tasks. The agency said the day after the 16-year-old died, the sawmill terminated all of the children's jobs.

Police records showed that Schuls was doing work allowed by Wisconsin law, according to AP.

The Labor Department said Florence Hardwoods has 15 business days from the receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or content the findings.

We contacted Florence Hardwoods for comment and are waiting to hear back.