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September 19, 2016

Major OSHA Fines Top $3.7 Million in August 2016

Federal OSHA investigators issued $3.7 million in 18 major fines in August. Chemical exposures, machine guarding and fall protection were among common hazards. The top fine involved lead exposure hazards at a Wisconsin shipyard. Here are some details of the top citations (over $100,000) reported in August, which may still be pending final decisions:

$1.39 million and SVEP for lead exposure up to 20x the limit at a Wisconsin shipyard

Lead renovation work area
OSHA inspectors found Fraser Shipyards Inc. overexposed workers to lead during the retrofitting of a ship's engine room, where 14 workers had lead levels up to 20 times the exposure limit, as well as other heavy metals. OSHA cited 14 willful egregious health violations for each instance of overexposing a worker to lead, and also cited five additional willful violations for failing to conduct monitoring to assess employee exposure to lead, failing to implement a lead compliance program or a respiratory protection program for lead and for failing to provide training on lead and asbestos hazards.

Inspectors also issued 10 serious violations and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program for failing to address safety and health hazards. OSHA opened the health inspection after receiving multiple complaints of unsafe working conditions. The agency determined company management knew of the presence of lead and asbestos throughout the vessel. OSHA found workers were exposed to iron oxide, arsenic, hexavalent chromium, cadmium and lead hazards while performing torch-cutting and welding procedures because the company failed to provide adequate respiratory and personal protective equipment to limit their exposure to these harmful substances. Fraser also failed to conduct required medical evaluations and exposure monitoring for employees, in addition to other violations.
OSHA previously cited the company for asbestos hazards in 2000 and for multiple lead violations in 1993. View current citations here.

$320,000 for willful violations following a fatal fall at an Illinois shipping facility

Four months after investigators cited Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services for failing to provide workers with fall protection, a 42-year-old employee fell 22 feet to his death at the same site. OSHA cited the employer for three egregious willful violations for exposing workers to falls over 6 feet, and also cited three repeat and three serious safety violations.

OSHA says Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical:

  • Exposed workers to falls of up to 22 feet as they hoisted conveyor equipment while working on raised surfaces with unprotected sides
  • Failed to determine whether walking and working surfaces could structurally support employees
  • Allowed workers to use a combustible polyethylene tarp as a welding curtain, which created a serious fire hazard

OSHA cited fall protection violations in October 2015 at the same jobsite. In 2014, OSHA cited the company for similar violations after an employee suffered serious injuries in a fall in New Jersey. The employer also received fall protection citations in 2009 in Oregon and 2012 in Florida. Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services removes and installs high-speed conveyor systems. In this case, the company was working under contract with United Parcel Service to dismantle existing conveyor systems and install new, high-speed conveyors. View the citations here.

$263,498 for amputation, chemical, fall and fire hazards at a Texas poultry plant

Responding to a report of a finger amputation at the Tyson Foods Inc. chicken processing facility in Center, Texas, OSHA inspectors identified two repeated and 15 serious violations. The employee suffered an amputation when his finger became stuck in an unguarded conveyor belt as he worked in the debone area and tried to remove chicken parts jammed in the belt.

OSHA inspectors also found more than a dozen serious violations including failing to ensure proper safety guards on moving machine parts, allowing carbon dioxide levels above the permissible exposure limit, failing to provide personal protective equipment and not training employees on hazards associated with peracetic acid. Inspectors also found employees exposed to slip-and-fall hazards due to a lack of proper drainage, trip-and-fall hazards caused by recessed drains, and fire hazards resulting from improperly stored compressed gas cylinders. See the citations here and here.

$196,900 for fall, electric shock, unguarded equipment and other hazards at an Alabama copper tubing manufacturer

Inspectors issued citations to GD Copper for two willful, one repeat, nine serious and two other-than-serious safety violations: Willful citations for exposing employees to slip, trip and fall hazards and allowing employees to work on equipment without following proper lockout / tagout procedures and one repeat violation for failing to provide training on hazardous energy sources.

Serious violations relate to:

  • Exposing employees to unguarded machine parts and equipment
  • Putting workers in danger of falls due to missing safety rails
  • Failing to evaluate a permit required confined space prior to workers entering
  • Not conducting annual audits of the energy control procedures
  • Exposing workers to electric shock hazards
See the citations here.

$195,460 for repeat combustible dust, grain-handling hazards at a Pennsylvania feed mill

OSHA issued citations to Albion Mill for five willful, nine repeat and 12 serious safety and health violations, and one other-than-serious violation. Inspectors identified willful violations when the company:
  • Allowed employees without proper safety equipment to enter a grain-handling bin
  • Allowed machines to be operated with unguarded belts, pulleys and shafts
  • Failed to develop or implement a housekeeping program to prevent worker exposure to combustible dust hazards caused by accumulated grain and feed products
  • Did not maintain inspection certification records when servicing equipment
Inspectors also found a variety of repeat and serious violations. View the citations here and here.  

$170,000 for asbestos hazards at a Pittsburgh coke production facility

Twice in about a month, United States Steel Corp. gave seven employees tasks that exposed them to asbestos, a widely recognized hazard associated with serious and fatal health risks. This is the second time since 2011, that OSHA has cited U.S. Steel Corp. for exposing employees to asbestos hazards.

Inspectors found the company again failed to establish a regulated area and inform employees of the presence of asbestos-containing material, conduct initial employee monitoring and ensure a negative exposure assessment, implement specific engineering controls and designate a qualified person to oversee the work and issued repeat citations. In addition, the employer used compressed air improperly in maintenance and repair operations, did not provide employee training or utilize appropriate containment and disposal methods. View the citations.

$153,791 for machine and welding hazards at an Illinois trailer manufacturer

For the second time in two years, OSHA inspectors found workers risking amputations and other serious injuries as they fed parts by hand into an unguarded mechanical press brake at an Illinois trailer manufacturing plant. They also found the company failed to protect welders and other employees from harmful ray emissions during welding operations. OSHA issued one willful, one repeat and five serious violations. OSHA's inspection found the employer failed to:
  • Evaluate powered industrial vehicle operators every three years as required. The company also altered powered industrial vehicles
  • Promptly remove scrap metal from floors, causing trip and fall hazards
  • Cover electrical boxes and openings
View current citations here.

$142,200 for mercury exposure at a New York remediation contractor

A Schenectady hazardous materials remediation contractor exposed its employees to mercury poisoning and did not provide proper safeguards to workers doing mercury removal work at a Superfund site. OSHA began its inspection after employees complained about mercury exposure and lack of personal protective equipment. The employees were removing liquid mercury and mercury-contaminated soil and wood. Inspectors found that several employees inhaled or absorbed excessive levels of mercury vapor or liquid mercury through their skin. Biological monitoring confirmed the workers had symptoms consistent with respiratory mercury exposure.

OSHA says the company failed to implement measures such as ventilation, protective equipment or reorganizing work to reduce employees' exposure levels despite the employees' complaints about the exposure. In addition, the employer did not comply with several requirements for protecting employees engaged in hazardous waste operations, including failures to:

  • Inform the employees doing the work about the nature, level and degree of their exposure to hazardous materials
  • Implement a site specific health and safety program for the jobsite and have a safety and health program for mercury
  • Provide appropriate selection of personal protective equipment to workers to prevent skin absorption of hazardous substances
  • Develop a site control program to minimize employees' exposure to hazardous substances
  • Provide medical exams and consultations for employees who reported signs or symptoms of possible exposure to hazardous substances
  • Conduct an initial assessment of employees' exposure to hazardous substances
  • Perform initial air monitoring for arsenic
  • Prevent employees from consuming water in mercury contaminated areas
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of respirators used by workers when temperatures rose above 90 degrees
  • Retrain employees on respiratory protection requirements
View the citations.

$129,200 and SVEP for exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards at a Massachusetts chemical manufacturer

An OSHA inspection followed an explosion as plant employees were engaged in the trimethyl aluminum cylinder reclamation process. Four employees were injured as a result of the explosion. Investigators determined the company had failed to adequately design, inspect, maintain and operate the process to prevent oxygen from making contacting with and igniting trimethyl aluminum. The plant also:
  • Lacked adequate precautions to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors during the process
  • Did not empty a waste container of flammable liquids on a daily basis
  • Did not protect the reclamation system against the probability of fire and explosion
  • Stored flammable liquids improperly
  • Lacked emergency drainage systems to direct flammable liquids or fire protection water to a safe location
  • Stored propane cylinders close to an area where there was a high probability of fire or explosion
  • Lacked aisles with adequate width to allow movement of fire protection equipment and personnel in an emergency
OSHA cited the company for similar hazards in 2014. Also, the company did not record the employees' injuries within seven days as required by OSHA's recordkeeping standard. Overall, OSHA cited eight serious, two repeat and one other than serious violations of workplace safety standards. See citations here.

$124,960 for repeat fall hazard exposures by a Massachusetts roofing contractor

The contractor exposed employees to falls of more than 45 feet over a three-day period as they worked at a church. Inspectors found employees working without fall protection atop a steep-pitched roof , on a lower, sloped roof and on ladders that did not extend at least three feet above landings for required stability. OSHA found additional fall hazards stemming from:
  • Using a materials hoist improperly as a ladder
  • Inadequate fall protection training
  • An unsecured fall protection anchor
  • A fall protection lanyard that would allow an employee to fall more than 6 feet
  • An improperly angled extension ladder
  • Ascent and descent on a ladder while carrying an object that could cause a worker to lose balance
  • Lack of training on how to use ladders safely
Employees also faced: Eye and face injuries while using pneumatic nail guns without proper eye protection; Being struck by roofing materials dropped more than 20 feet from the building; Electric shock and burns from ungrounded power tools, an ungrounded electrical outlet and frayed and misused power cords; Exposure to lead contaminants and inadequate training about lead hazards. View the citations here.

$115,000 for repeat flammable gas, other hazards at a New Jersey chemical company

As part of the agency's national emphasis program for chemical facilities, OSHA inspected the company and found multiple violations, including not developing set written procedures for maintaining process equipment, which resulted in repeat violations. In addition, OSHA issued citations for serious violations for the following:
  • Having incomplete process safety information for equipment in the process
  • Failing to review operating procedures to comply with current operating practice
  • Failing to inspect and test process equipment
  • Failing to follow established procedures to manage changes to process chemicals, technology, equipment, and/or facilities
  • Failing to respond properly to a compliance audit
See the citations.

$115,000 for acid, chemical and machine hazards at an Ohio metal coating plant

OSHA issued one willful, five repeated and four serious violations to the company when inspectors noted workers dipping and coating metal parts in acid-plating tanks lacked proper clothing and protection for their eyes and faces. The company also failed to protect employees from respiratory hazards, and did not meet required safety standards for the chemicals in use. The company also allowed machines to operate without adequate safety guards. OSHA's inspection found the employer failed to:
  • Require workers to wear personal protective equipment, including arm, body, eye and face protection
  • Provide medical surveillance to employees exposed to hazardous chemicals
  • Follow respiratory protection standards, such as providing fit-testing and medical evaluations for employees
  • Label acid tanks with identifiable information about the chemicals in use
  • Provide accessible emergency eyewash and shower stations
  • Install adequate machine safety guards
  • Train workers on safe electrical work practices
  • Periodically inspect lifting devices used to lift parts into acid baths
View the current safety and health citations.

$111,540 for repeat safety hazards at a Maryland hotel

OSHA inspected the hotel in response to a complaint alleging blocked exits, tripping and fall hazards. Inspectors found recordkeeping and housekeeping violations, exit signs not posted, electrical equipment improperly used, locked and blocked exits and fall hazards, resulting in the citations. The hotel is operated by the U.S. Postal Service. View the citations.

$107,785 for fall and other hazards by a Florida homebuilder

Inspectors observed employees installing roofing sheathing without fall protection, and cited two companies with five safety violations. The inspection was part of OSHA's Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction. The contractors: failed to ensure subcontractor employees were protected with a fall protection system when working from heights up to 25 feet, and allowing workers to use the top step of a ladder to access and exit the roofing trusses. Two serious violations were cited for employees not wearing hard hats and for operating powered nail guns without eye protection. View the citations here and here.

$106,700 for amputation, machine, fall and extreme heat hazards at a Houston tortilla factory

Following a complaint of unsafe working conditions, an OSHA inspection resulted in 25 serious violations for exposing workers to struck-by and caught-in hazards and failing to protect workers from dangerous machinery. Inspectors also found workers exposed to extreme heat, electrical hazards including exposed energized electrical parts and fall hazards as they loaded dough into machines used to make tortillas. Review the citations here and here.

$105,600 for blocked exits and other hazards at Kansas discount stores

Federal safety inspectors have again found blocked exits and other hazards at stores operated by national discount retailer, Dollar General - this time in Wichita and Clay Center. Since 2010, OSHA has found more than 100 safety and health violations at the company stores nationwide. In Wichita, an inspector found blocked exit routes and materials stored near electrical panels. An inspection at the Clay Center store found five serious violations and one other-than-serious violation with workers exposed to electrical, fall and trip hazards. OSHA has issued citations for similar violations at Dollar General stores in Georgia, Arkansas, Texas and Illinois. View citations here.

$105,000 following LOTO-related death at a Missouri foundry

OSHA investigators found the company did not use lockout devices and other machine safety procedures to prevent unintentional movement of a part - known as a ram - while a worker was inside the machine. The worker was crushed to death. OSHA cited the company for one repeat and five serious safety violations, including:
  • Failed to isolate all sources of energy in or to the equipment
  • Did not protect employees from unexpected machine movements during maintenance
  • Lacked machine-specific lockout procedures
  • Failed to adequately train workers on proper lockout procedures
  • Failed to coordinate lockout procedures with an outside contractor
  • Did not correct illegible markings on a crane pendant control box
View citations here.

$104,300 for grain handling and confined space violations following worker injury at a North Dakota grain company

OSHA investigated after a sweep auger caused a worker to suffer multiple lacerations, and cited six willful and eight serious citations. The company failed to:
  • Test atmospheric conditions in grain bins before allowing workers to enter
  • Complete permit-required confined space entry permits
  • Disconnect a sweep auger and other equipment in bins before allowing workers to enter
  • Train employees on procedures to prevent sudden machine start-up or unintentional operation
  • Install adequate machine guarding to avoid contact with moving parts
  • Implement a respiratory protection program
  • Cover floor and wall openings to protect workers from trips and falls
  • Train employees entering grain bins on safety procedures
View citations here.

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