CPSC FINES FISHER-PRICE $1.1 MILLION

June 09, 2001

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that Fisher-Price, of East Aurora, N.Y., has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1.1 million to settle CPSC charges that it failed to report serious safety defects with Power Wheels toy vehicles. This is the largest fine against a toy firm in CPSC's history.

Under federal law, companies are required to report to CPSC if they obtain information that reasonably suggests that their products could present a substantial risk of injury to consumers, or creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death. CPSC charges Fisher-Price failed to report to CPSC in a timely manner, as required by the Consumer Product Safety Act, that its "Power Wheels" ride-on toy vehicles presented fire hazards and failed to stop.

Fisher-Price failed to report 116 fires involving the vehicles and reports of more than 1,800 incidents of the vehicles' electrical components overheating, short-circuiting, melting or failing. These incidents resulted in at least nine minor burn injuries to children, and up to $300,000 in property damage to 22 houses and garages. Additionally, Fisher-Price was aware of at least 71 incidents involving the products' failure to stop, resulting in six minor injuries when the vehicles hit a car, truck, pole, window or fence. Fisher-Price began marketing the Power Wheels in 1995. CPSC began an investigation after receiving consumer reports about Power Wheels incidents. The firm only fully reported after being requested to do so by the CPSC staff.

"Firms are required by law to report safety hazards to CPSC so products can be recalled to prevent serious injuries from occurring," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "Fisher-Price knew about hundreds of problems with Power Wheels, yet did nothing for years. This fine is a loud-and-clear message to all firms that failing to report product defects will not be tolerated."

"Fisher-Price significantly strengthened its product integrity organization," Brown added. "I applaud this commitment to turning things around to ensure the safety of children's toys."

In agreeing to settle this matter, Fisher-Price denies CPSC allegations and denies it knowingly violated the Consumer Product Safety Act.

In cooperation with CPSC, Fisher-Price recalled up to 10 million Power Wheels ride-on vehicles on October 22, 1998. The recalled Power Wheels cars and trucks were sold under nearly 100 model names. Power Wheels cars and trucks are intended for children 2 to 7 years old. Toy and mass merchandise stores nationwide sold the recalled vehicles from 1984 through October 1998 for $70 to $300. For more information about the recall, call Fisher-Price at (800) 977-7800.


MAN SUES NAIL GUN MANUFACTURER AFTER GETTING NAILED IN THE HEAD

According to a story in the June 6 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a worker is suing a nail gun company following an accident when a co-worker fired a nail into his head with a nail gun in 1998. Travis Bogumill of Chippewa Falls and Society Insurance of Fond du Lac filed a lawsuit last week against Stanley-Bostitch, the East Greenwich, R.I., company that designed, manufactured and sold the nail gun.

Bogumill, a construction company employee, walked by a ladder at a remodeling job as a co-worker climbed down with a nail gun in hand. The nail gun touched Bogumill's head and fired a 3-inch, 12 penny nail into his skull. An X-ray later showed a nail lodged on the right side of his brain, halfway between his ear and the top of his head.


HOW TO FIND OUT WHO HAS BEEN INSPECTED BY OSHA

An OSHA web site enables you to search for OSHA enforcement inspections by the name of a company, address, or location. You can also find the results of inspections based on SIC codes. You can find the enforcement inspection database at http://www.osha.gov/cgi-bin/est/est1.


OSHA CITES NEW JERSEY-BASED MARINE CONTRACTOR FOR SAFETY VIOLATIONS AFTER FATAL CRANE PLUNGE INTO KENNEBEC RIVER

OSHA has cited Weeks Marine, Inc. for willful, repeat, and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following a fatal accident in which a crane slid off a barge into Maine's Kennebec River. A total of $360,000 in fines is proposed against the Cranford, New Jersey-based marine construction contractor.

Weeks Marine, Inc. had been contracted to dredge part of the Kennebec River at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. The dredging was performed by a mobile crane situated on a barge. Two employees were working in the crane when it went into the river on December 21, 2000. One worker was rescued, the second worker has not been found and is presumed dead.

"OSHA's inspection found that the crane had not been secured to the barge, as required by OSHA standards," said C. William Freeman III, OSHA area director for Maine. "In addition, the company failed to ensure that the crane was operating safely within its manufacturer's specifications and limitations, failed to repair or replace a malfunctioning swing gear, and failed to have a lifesaving skiff available for immediate use in the event workers went into the river.

"These conditions existed from the onset of the job, almost three weeks before the accident, and the company's onsite supervisors knew and did nothing to correct these hazards," he said. "As a result, these violations have been classified as willful, the most severe category of OSHA violation, and the maximum allowed fine -- $70,000 -- is being proposed for each of these four violations."

The repeat violation concerned failure to provide workers with a ramp or other safe means of accessing and crossing to and from the barge, the wharf, the float and a towboat. OSHA had twice cited Weeks Marine in 1998 for similar violations at two New York worksites. A $70,000 fine is proposed for this citation.

The serious violations were for failure to keep decks and other working surfaces of the barge clear of ice and snow, and for not removing a defective ladder from service. $10,000 in fines are proposed for these items.

"Securing a mobile crane to a barge is a basic, well-known safeguard that must be utilized on each and every job where it's required," said Freeman. "If the company had provided and ensured this vital and necessary protection, this accident could have been avoided. No job, no deadline, no excuse is worth the loss of a human life."

A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. A repeat violation is issued by OSHA when an employer has been previously cited for a substantially similar hazards and that citation and its penalties have become final.


OSHA FINES TARPON SPRINGS CONTRACTOR $79,500 FOLLOWING INSPECTION OF JACKSONVILLE BRIDGE PROJECT

OSHA cited Tarpon Springs, Fla.-based Damalos & Sons, Inc. and proposed penalties totaling $79,500 for safety and health violations found during an inspection of a Jacksonville bridge re-painting project. The company was cited for two repeat violations with proposed penalties totaling $60,000 for failing to properly monitor employees with elevated blood-lead levels and for failing to give employees written blood test results.

"Our inspectors found that workers on this paint removal and re-paint job were exposed to dust with more than 50 times the permissible level of lead," said James D. Borders, OSHA's Jacksonville area director. Borders explained that, over time, lead can accumulate in a worker's body and cause irreversible damage to their brain, central nervous system and other parts of the body. Even a short-term dose of lead exposure can adversely affect the brain. "That's why one of OSHA's national goals is to reduce employee exposure to lead," Borders said.

"In Florida we also have a local emphasis program to reduce fall hazards because too many workers are killed or injured due to falls at construction sites." The two areas of emphasis, according to the Jacksonville area director, may explain why an OSHA inspector driving by the site noticed some unsafe practices that exposed workers to fall hazards and possible lead exposures. "Our inspection began as a result of the inspector's referral," added Borders.

In addition to the repeat citations, the agency issued five serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $19,500 for failing to:

  • conduct quarterly air monitoring to determine employees' level of exposure to lead;
  • provide medical surveillance to employees when lead exposures reached a certain level;
  • provide employees with clean personal protective equipment daily when lead exposures exceeded permissible levels;
  • assure that employees wore proper fall protection when working from aerial lifts, and
  • provide proper guardrail systems.

Damalos & Sons, Inc. has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The company, which employs approximately 40 workers, had eight workers at the bridge site.


OSHA TO ANNOUNCE ERGONOMIC HEARINGS

The Washington Post reported that the Department of Labor plans to announce three hearings in July to determine what course it should take to regulate -- or not regulate -- workplace conditions that contribute to repetitive-motion injuries.

According to the Post, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, has been holding informal meetings during the past few months with various groups interested in the ergonomics issue.

A notice announcing the hearings is expected to be published in the Federal Register next week. This action may restart the debate over the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and an assortment of other repetitive-stress injuries.

Chao will attend the first hearing, which will be held on July 16 in Washington, D;, other hearings will be held on July 20 in Chicago, and July 24 in California.

If OSHA decides to pursue another ergonomics rule, it can't be "substantially similar" to the rule it would replace. The Congressional Review Act, which was used to kill the Clinton rule, forbids a simple reintroduction of substantially the same rule.