REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio (WCMH) — A former employee is sounding the alarm about safety at a Reynoldsburg factory in the days after his former supervisor was killed on the job.
The deadly accident happened May 2 at TS Tech, which makes vehicle seats. According to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the worker, Mitsavanh Boualyvongsane, was crushed by an 11,000-pound metal coil.
“He was a great guy. I worked for him and it really – it really hurt to find out that happened,” said Thomas Fisher, telling NBC4 Boualyvongsane — who was known as “Mits” at work — was his supervisor.
Fisher worked at TS Tech for 11 years. He said he held numerous positions and primarily drove a forklift. By his own admission, he was fired in 2019, and said he was let go the same day he raised concerns about safety in the factory. He said he was encouraged to go public with those concerns after attending Mits’s visitation.
“Finally meeting his brothers and sisters – that’s what made me come (to NBC4) today,” Fisher said. “They were distraught and they were being so strong in the face of the situation, and I feel like it didn’t have to happen.”
The sheriff’s office incident report said Mits was operating a crane to move a metal coil, which slipped off the hook and landed on him. Witnesses told deputies the hook was facing the wrong direction.
As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration looks into the accident, Fisher said he wants to shed light on the workplace environment he remembers, wondering if it contributed to what happened.
“We had to work so fast, it was like being in a pressure cooker,” Fisher said,
By Fisher’s account, the haste to get things done sometimes led to close calls. He recalled that once, a worker was pulling a cart holding hundreds of pounds of material — when the weld on the cart snapped loose.
“The cart just flies right into another section of parts. If somebody would have been there, I don’t know what would have happened to that person,” Fisher said.
Fisher detailed his concerns in an email to human resources in 2019. He provided a copy to NBC4.
“The equipment we use; tuggers, forklifts, etc.. are often damaged and in short supply. We are not given proper training for operating nor proper procedure when it comes to handling damaged equipment,” Fisher wrote.
The email also described people, puddles of water, and objects in the way of forklifts, and Fisher complained about being stretched too thin.
“Even though I’m behind on my work I am asked to do the work of others,” Fisher’s email said. “I had an incident where i dropped a set of sidewings with the forklift because I was forced to do someone else’s job as well as my own.”
In an email to NBC4, a TS Tech spokesperson denied Fisher’s accusations.
“There are 700 employees at the Reynoldsburg plant who are grieving the loss of their co-worker and friend Mits,” the spokesperson said. “It is unfortunate that given these tragic circumstances, a former associate is raising unsubstantiated claims that are wholly unrelated to the situation and could add to a family’s grief.”
The spokesperson said safety training is a regular part of the daily routine at the Reynoldsburg plant and following the accident, crane operators are going through refresher training.
The spokesperson said the crane Mits was using was tested and inspected after the accident and found to be in good working order, and not in need of repairs.
“We are fully cooperating with the OSHA investigation while we conduct our own extensive investigation. We lead with safety first and are working tirelessly to ensure another tragic accident like this does not happen again,” the spokesperson said.
NBC4 could not find any records of previous fatalities or serious injuries at the factory.
A 2010 OSHA inspection report cites six violations categorized as “serious” at the factory, including noise exposure, inadequate machine guarding to protect workers, and exposed live conductors or circuit parts.
The company paid $5,175 in fines, in a settlement for half of the initial fine.