Workforce Death At Spirit Raises Safety Concerns

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spirit Aerosystems workers are in mourning tonight after one of their coworkers died on the job this week. 26-year-old Matt Lyons died after falling 12 feet into a pit.

Lyons had worked at Spirit for more that 5 years. Tonight, questions are being asked about whether safety procedures in place, and if followed, might have prevented his death.

Machinists union district president Frank Molina, Jr. points to the are in the Spirit plant where the accident occurred late Monday afternoon.

Molina and union safety committee members examined the scene, speaking with Lyons’ coworkers about how the fatal accident occurred.

The accident happened in an area where 737 airline fuselages are put together. Molina says an overhead crane was moving a large 737 metal panel into its next assemblage state and coworkers, including Lyons, were assisting.

"They were trying to lay the skin into a gig, a fixture,” Molina says. “And when he outreached, reached over, when he did that's when we believe he lost balance and he fell into a pit."

He says it appears Lyons was overreaching.

"The truth is we're upset because of the tragedy that's happened again," he says.

Again, he says, because just 13 months earlier, Spirit employee Jerry Milligan died in the same general area in a fall. And though Molina says the circumstances are different, it points out the importance of following all safety procedures and using all safety equipment available.

Molina says there are questions about Lyons’ use of a safety harness.

"Now, did he have one on? I believe he did,” he says. “But was it all hooked up? I don't believe it was appropriately."

A spirit spokesman says safety is their top priority and says this accident will focus more attention on safety and if changes need to be made.

"Unfortunately, this is what happens when we don't follow the procedures," Molina says.

He also says Spirit has assigned people to make certain workers wear their safety equipment, so there’s no question about it.

Molina says he doesn’t blame the company or anyone. But OSHA is investigating, and the area’s assistant director tells me if OSHA violations are found, citations and fines could come.

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