Chicago, IL – A Chicago-based manufacturer of industrial dryers is facing $171,000 in fines after an OSHA inspection revealed “multiple serious violations.” At Chicago Dryer Co., investigators found that operators were endangered by unguarded press brakes, earning the company a citation for a willful violation (defined as one that is committed with informed disregard for the law or indifference to employee safety).
“When a press brake lacks safety features, one slip and a worker can lose a hand,” Angeline Loftus, area director of OSHA’s Chicago North Area Office in Des Plaines, explained in the April 13, 2015 press release.
Twenty additional serious violations were cited as well, bringing the total to 21. Investigators reported damaged crane slings (some carrying 3,000-pound cylinders) and industrial machines were still being used at Chicago Dryer, railings were not installed on open stairs, and exit routes were blocked and exit doors were locked. Agency inspectors also found that there were electrical safety hazards and training concerns.
Wyoming, MI – Grand Rapids Plastics Inc. faces $558,000 in fines following inspection by state OSHA regulators investigating the June 2014 death of worker killed while cleaning inside a machine. Russell Scharenbroch, father of six, was fatally crushed at Grand Rapids Plastics in a horizontal injection molding machine that was not properly locked out.
OSHA found that the Michigan-based injection molder did not enforce the use of lockout/tagout safety procedures prior to the 34-year-old victim entering the mold cavity. “The machine was left in automatic mode while the employee was inside, and another employee cycled the machine,” the OSHA report says.
Grand Rapids Plastics was cited for three willful serious violations related to this death and fined $70,000 for each offense, which included inadequate employee training and not using lock-out devices on the molding machine and a pick-and-place conveyor. Two other fines of $5,000 each were assessed for not having machine guards at the front and rear gates of injection molding machines and not developing lock-out safety procedures, bringing the initial penalties to $220,000.
A second companion inspection of the company, which has five buildings, was conducted a few days later. That investigation “was opened because MIOSHA discovered a pattern of employees entering machines while the machines were still energized and because many other safety hazards were observed,” the MIOSHA report says.
State inspectors slapped the company with an additional 49 violations, including six considered willful serious, and penalties of $338,000. The penalties and violations ranged from $1,500 for an employee wearing unapproved prescription glasses with homemade side shields while operating a drill press, bench grinder and lathe all the way up to $70,000 for not training the employee supervising the injection molding operations in lock-out safety.
These findings and fines put Grand Rapids Plastics into the federal Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on employers “who have demonstrated indifference” to their safety obligations. “The comprehensive companion inspection has two or more willful violations based on high-gravity serious violations related to the high-emphasis hazard of amputations,” the MIOSHA report states.
From 2011-14, Grand Rapids Plastics was cited a total of 10 times for serious and other-than-serious violations and fined a total of $31,250. Founded in 1976, Grand Rapids Plastics produces plastic parts for the automotive, home, sporting, electronics and construction industries.
Barron, WI – Koser Iron Works was forced to close in December of 2014 after OSHA investigators levied over $102,000 in fines for safety violations, including failure to implement a lockout/tagout program at the plant. Fire, explosion, and amputation hazards were cited in 12 safety violations at the Barron, WI business and 20 employees were laid off as a result of the closure.
Koser, owner of the metalworking shop since 1964, disputes the OSHA allegations. “That’s a ridiculous amount of money and I don’t have it,” said Koser. “No one who reads the OSHA news release about us would want to work for us, or even do any business with us. So it is over.” Koser said he may have to sell his equipment to pay the fine.
Koser Iron Works was cited for two willful, four repeated and 12 serious safety violations in a Oct. 1, 2014 inspection, according to a news release issued Monday by OSHA.
OSHA inspectors observed a lack of lockout/tagout measures in their investigation of the facility. While Koser employees made die changes on punch presses, they failed to use energy control procedures, including powering off and affixing locking devices to prevent unintentional operation of a press. The company also failed to ensure safety mechanisms were in place on its power presses and lathes.
Similar hazards were found in a 2013 investigation after an employee complaint prompted an inspection at the same facility. These repeat violations are considered by OSHA to be “willful” – committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.
Koser Iron Works was a steel fabrication company that cut, formed, and welded steel and steel products. The business had been in the Koser family since 1915.
WALLINGFORD, CT – R+L Carriers Shared Services LLC, located in Wallingford, CT is facing fines nearing $87,000 for serious OSHA violations. According to an OSHA press release, employees faced dangerous chemicals, fire and explosion hazards when they tried to contain a chemical spill without proper training and protective equipment in October of 2014.
OSHA investigators found that a 55 gallon drum of tetrahydrofuran being carried by a forklift from a truck accidentally punctured. R+L employees attempted to contain the spill by using absorbents and cordoning off the area. OSHA’s investigation found that company management lacked an emergency response plan and none of the employees were trained as first responders.
The investigation also found that the emergency plan did not include procedures for timely reporting on emergency events, no respiratory protection was provided, and there was no qualified person on-site to oversee the response. Additionally, it was also found that the forklift was not operated properly.
OSHA said they found two repeated and four serious violations in the course of investigation. The two repeated violations came from similar hazards cited by OSHA during a 2011 inspection of R+L Carriers Shared Services Chicago division.
Robert Kowalski, OSHA’s area director in Bridgeport, said “These workers were essentially defenseless. They did not know how to evaluate the hazards involved, what personal protective equipment to use and what steps to follow to contain the spill safely. Worse, no one present at the terminal did,” and “These deficiencies in emergency response by R+L Carriers put its employees at risk of death or serious injury.”
ELIDA, OH — OSHA inspectors issued four willful, four repeated, and 19 serious health and safety violations to A & D Wood Products, a wood pallet manufacturer based in Elida, Ohio. Acting on an employee complaint, OSHA investigators found workers at risk of amputation, explosion and other life-threatening hazards due to lockout/tagout negligence.
Employees of A & D Wood Products were found to be routinely exposed to amputation, combustible dust and other dangerous hazards. The company faces proposed penalties of $133,540 and has been placed in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Under hazardous working conditions, employees operated machines without eye protection and without effective safeguards from moving parts amid large amounts of combustible wood dust piled throughout the facility. The force from such an explosion can cause deaths, injuries and destruction of buildings.
Kim Nelson, OSHA’s area director in Toledo, stated: “A & D Wood Products operates a manufacturing shop that exposes workers to real hazards daily, creating an environment that forces workers to make a choice between their lives and their livelihood…With 27 violations, it’s clear the safety and health of its workforce is not a priority for them.”
A & D Wood Products workers were found to be exposed to amputation and other injury hazards because devices were not used to prevent equipment from suddenly starting during service and maintenance, a procedure known as lockout/tagout. Inspectors also flagged electrical safety hazards like cabinets not closed properly to prevent contact with energized wires. A & D Wood Products was cited for similar violations at the facility in November 2011. OSHA issues repeated violations if an employer was previously cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.
A & D also failed to provide hearing protection and audiometric testing for employees, which can identify premature hearing loss. Noise-related hearing loss is one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the U.S., with an estimated 30 million workers exposed to noise each year. Additionally, OSHA inspectors noted machine guarding and electrical safety violations, poor hygiene conditions and unsafe practices related to forklift operations, including leaving forklifts running and unattended. The company also failed to train employees on fire extinguisher use and about hazardous chemicals and products used in the facility, and provided inadequate personal protective equipment. In total, 19 serious violations were cited.
Edison, NJ – OSHA has cited Bentley Laboratories LLC and Joulé Clinical & Scientific Staffing Solutions for allegedly exposing as many as 50 temporary workers to health and safety hazards. Bentley Laboratories manufactures products for the beauty and pharmaceutical industries and Joule Clinical & Scientific Staffing Solutions (headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA) provides staffing services to Bentley Laboratories.
“We see these kinds of violations frequently, especially in the case of temporary workers,” said Patricia Jones, director of OSHA’s Avenel Area Office. “Both the hiring company and the staffing agency are legally responsible for the safety and health of their workers.
In response to a complaint, OSHA initiated an inspection at Bentley Labs in October, 2014. They allege 14 serious violations, carrying $45,000 in potential fines. According to OSHA, Bentley failed to: train workers on chemical hazards; maintain a hearing conservation program for employees exposed to excessive noise; develop procedures and training to control potentially hazardous energy; and properly guard machines to prevent amputations. These types of Lockout/Tagout measures are key to safety in the workplace. If you’ve been in a similar situation and sustained damage due to this kind of negligence, it might be time to get some legal support from someone similar to Las Vegas Workers Compensation Lawyer.
For it’s part, Joulé Clinical & Scientific Staffing Solutions was cited with three serious violations and proposed fines of $8,000 for not having a hazardous communication program or training related to hazardous chemicals and energy-control procedures.
BRISTOL, CT – Covanta Energy Bristol Inc faces more than $90,000 in proposed fines for fostering a hazardous workplace. Violations of workplace health standards included allowing combustible dust to accumulate on exposed surfaces and failing to determine the level of employees’ exposure to ash containing toxic metals. Additionally, the employer didn’t provide adequate training and “protective and protective clothing for an employee performing testing on live electrical parts;” had “inadequate safeguards for employees working in confined spaces;” and did not provide enough eyewash for “employees working with batteries.” The plant also had “fall, fork truck, air pressure and mechanical hazards,” according to the OSHA inspection.
The plant located in Bristol, CT burns garbage to produce energy and can process 650 tons of solid waste a day. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration began an inspection in October in response to a complaint about workplace safety and health violations.
“Covanta Energy Bristol Inc. needlessly exposed its employees to the hazards of electrocution, fire, falls, slips and trips, crushing, being trapped or overcome in a confined space, eye injuries and cancer, lung or kidney damage,” Terence McEvily, OSHA’s acting area director in Hartford, said in a statement. “It must take effective steps to eliminate these hazards and prevent them from happening again.” OSHA cited the plant for 16 “serious violations of workplace safety and health standards.”
A Covanta spokesman said the company had not yet received the citations from OSHA but looks forward to resolving the issues, stating: “The health and safety of employees is our first priority at Covanta so we take the assertions in the OSHA press release very seriously…We look forward to working cooperatively with OSHA to gain a thorough understanding of the concerns.”
Auburn, ME – Formed Fiber Technologies is being fined by OSHA for failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures that would ensure worker safety against such hazards as lacerations, crushed fingers, amputation (or worse) if struck by or caught in unguarded or unexpectedly activated machinery.
Employees at their Maine manufacturing plant use a variety of machines, including robots, to make polyester carpets and thermoformed trunk liners for the automotive industry. An OSHA inspection found workers at risk of injuries because their employer did not ensure proper safeguards on the machines they operate. No injuries have been reported at this time.
Suwanee, GA – PAI Industries, Inc. faces close to $56,000 in federal OSHA fines following an inspection by investigators for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The auto parts manufacturer was issued 14 citations for serious violations following an OSHA inspection in the fall of 2014. The inspection was part of a regional canvassing of automotive industries, according to a press release from the U.S. Labor Department.
OSHA cited PAI for not ensuring machinery could not accidentally start up during maintenance and servicing, an industry practice known as Lockout/Tagout. Additional violations included not requiring eye protection; exposing workers to trip and fall hazards; not providing a workplace free from recognized hazards; failure to implement a noise monitoring program; and not ensuring fire extinguishers were properly mounted and labeled.
“The results from this on-site enforcement inspection illustrate the need for OSHA’s focus on the automotive parts industry,” said William Fulcher director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office. “Employers can’t only rely on OSHA to identify hazards; they must be proactive in protecting the health and safety of their workers.”
Arcadia, WI – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied a historic $1.766 million dollar fine this week against Ashley Furniture Industries, based in Wisconsin. Investigators documented numerous and repeated serious violations at the facility, landing Ashley Furniture on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program list for “employers who have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.”
The plant employs 4,500 and in the past 3 years has seen over 1,000 worker injuries. Workers were not adequately protected against moving machinery, most of it woodworking machinery. Lack of training and accidents with tools, blades, and saws have resulted in multiple amputations. The OSHA report and $1.76 million dollar penalty allege that Ashley Furniture “failed to safeguard against woodworking machines unintentionally starting when workers were making tool and blade changes,” which is also known as lockout tagout or control of hazardous energy.
Additional citations were issued for “not training workers on safety procedures and hazards present when servicing machinery; lacking adequate drenching facilities for workers exposed to corrosive materials; electrical safety violations; and not equipping all machines with easily-accessible emergency stop buttons.” OSHA categorizes these violations as serious since physical harm resulted from a hazard they estimate that the “employer knew or should have known [to] exist.”
“We rarely issue a fine that is more than $1 million,” commented U.S. Labor Department Assistant Secretary David Michaels. “Having 1,000 work injuries in three years is proof positive that safety in this plant needs tremendous improvement.” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez stated: “Safety and profits are not an ‘either, or’ proposition. Successful companies across this nation have both.” For its part, Ashley Furniture denies the findings, stressing that they are allegations only.