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WECT obtains new details on Southport workplace fatality

Worker died after being struck in chin with handle of a sledgehammer
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 12:08 PM EDT
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SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WECT) - We’re learning more about a fatal workplace accident in Brunswick County. The accident initially happened on March 3rd. WECT first reported the story when the employee passed away from their injuries a week later, and the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) was called in to investigate.

On Thursday, the NCDOL confirmed to WECT that 45-year-old William Walker is the employee who died on March 10th after being hit in the chin by the handle of a sledgehammer while working at the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) plant. The plant manufactures additives for use in soft drinks, food products, detergents, and animal feeds.

The Department of Labor has an ongoing investigation into the matter, which is expected to take several months to complete. If investigators determine that conditions at the plant contributed to Walker’s death, they could issue citations or penalties to ADM. At that point, ADM could pay the fine, request a conference to negotiate a settlement, or appeal.

This is the 21st workplace fatality reported in North Carolina since October, the beginning of the 2022 fiscal year. Two others have died in our region, including a construction workers who was electrocuted in Jones County on December 4, and another construction worker who died after falling from a scaffold in Onslow County on February 21.

In addition, the NCDOL plans to open an inspection into a workplace fatality that occurred this week in Bladen County. According to the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, two workers were dismantling a burned mobile home and the track hoe operator swung the bucket and struck the victim by accident, killing them.

The 61-year-old victim’s name has not been disclosed due to pending notification of family. The sheriff’s office said Wednesday that no foul play was found.

“Struck-by incidents” caused the largest number of non COVID-19, work-related deaths last year in North Carolina, based on data from NCDOL. The department’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Division inspected 49 non COVID-19 work-related fatalities in 2021.

“Workplace fatalities keep me up at night,” Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson said. “Every time there is a workplace fatality, I am notified of it and no matter what the cause, it weighs heavy on my mind. Although I am encouraged by the overall reduction in workplace fatalities, we still have work to do.”

The OSH Division tracks work-related deaths that fall within its jurisdictional authority so it can pinpoint where fatalities are occurring and place special emphasis on counties or regions where deaths on the job are happening. By tracking fatalities in real time, the department can also notify industries of any concerning patterns or trends identified and issue hazard alerts.

WECT has reached out to Walker’s family and ADM for comment, and will update this story if they respond.

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