Worker dies at south Macon plant that has been fined multiple times for safety violations

The death Wednesday of a temporary worker at the Nichiha plant in south Macon is the second fatality to be investigated there by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration since the facility opened in 2007.

OSHA is investigating the death of Willie Bonner, 59.

Bonner was knocked by a robotic arm onto a conveyor belt and then crushed by pallets that fell on top of him in the Wednesday morning accident, said Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones.

Bonner died about an hour later at the Medical Center, Navicient Health, Jones said.

An employee of the temp service, Premier Staffing Unlimited, Bonner had worked at the plant since August.

“We are saddened and shocked by this loss of life and are committed to doing all we can to understand how this tragedy occurred and to prevent it from happening again,” an emailed Nichiha statement reads. “We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Bonner.”

The company had grief counselors on site Wednesday to help workers, according to the statement.

In 2008, Lewis Jorell Goodwin, 21, of Macon, dropped a marker pen under a machine while working at the plant. His sleeve was caught in the machine as he reached down to retrieve it and he was pulled into the machine, Jones said.

The plant, which is the company’s first in the U.S., has been cited and fined by OSHA for multiple safety violations over the years, according to online records.

The plant on Avondale Mill Road manufactures fiber cement siding.

October 2019: Macon man dies at a hospital after being knocked on conveyor belt by robotic arm and crushed under pallets.

August 2018: Nichiha Corp. announced plans to expand its Macon plant and add more than 70 jobs.

February 2017: Nichiha USA Inc. cited by OSHA for four repeat and three serious safety violations following a September 2013 inspection at the Macon plant. OSHA initiated the inspection in response to a complaint. The proposed penalties total $138,600.

December 2011: Nichiha U.S.A. ordered to pay a former employee more than $20,000 after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found the company violated the Family and Medical Leave Act.

November 2009: OSHA proposed $128,560 in penalties against Nichiha USA Inc.’s Macon plant for 27 safety and health violations.

April 2008: Macon man died after he was caught in a machine at the Macon plant.

November 2007: Nichiha opened its Avondale Mill Road facility in Macon, its first U.S. manufacturing plant.

June 2006: Nichiha announced it will build a 300,000-square-foot manufacturing plant on 60 acres in the Airport South Industrial Park on Avondale Mill Road at U.S. 41 and create about 100 jobs.

1998: Nichiha U.S.A., Inc., a subsidiary of Nichiha Corporation, was established. It’s headquarters are in Norcross, Ga.

About Nichiha

Nichiha Corporation has 13 plants worldwide and markets fiber cement siding products in the U.S.

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Becky Purser has covered breaking news as well as crime and courts primarily in Houston and Peach counties for The Telegraph. She’s now exploring topics that impact the lives of children, parents and the family. A graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a bachelor’s degree in communications/news-editorial sequence, Becky also has covered city and county government for Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia newspapers.
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