Manufacturer's Failure to Safeguard Workers against Hazardous Chemical Leads to Nearly $50,000 in OSHA Fines

December 11, 2003

A Lincoln, R.I., office furniture manufacturer's failure to provide adequate safeguards for employees working with the chemical methylene chloride (MC) has resulted in $49,200 in fines from OSHA.

Packaging Concepts, Ltd. was cited for alleged repeat and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and for failing to correct a hazard cited in an earlier OSHA inspection. Some workers at the plant are exposed to MC, a potential occupational carcinogen, during spraying and laminating operations.

"OSHA standards require an employer to take effective steps to reduce workers' exposure levels and to implement other safeguards - including respiratory protection, regulated work areas, washing facilities, exposure monitoring and medical surveillance - when exposure levels remain high," said Kipp W. Hartmann, OSHA's Rhode Island area director. "Our inspection found that the company had not implemented all of these required protections."

OSHA has proposed a $30,000 fine for the company's ongoing failure to provide medical surveillance for workers whose duties involved exposure to MC. OSHA first cited the company for this hazard in May 2002. Packaging Concepts agreed to correct that violation, but a followup inspection begun last month found that this had not been done.

Four serious citations, carrying $11,200 in proposed fines, were issued for employee overexposure to MC, not implementing controls to reduce exposure levels, not having a respiratory protection program and failing to supply workers with the proper respirators; failure to conduct periodic exposure monitoring; failure to establish a regulated work area; electrical safety hazards; and an uncovered container of flammable liquid.

Two repeat citations, with $8,000 in fines, were issued for not providing washing facilities for employees working with MC; and not providing workers with training and information on MC and other hazardous chemicals used in the workplace. OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer has previously been cited for a substantially similar violation and that citation has become final. The company had been cited for similar hazards in May 2002.

Packaging Concepts, Ltd., has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




OSHA Fines Dial Corporation $107,500 for Violations at Montgomery Plant

A follow-up inspection at Dial Corporation's Montgomery, Ill., plant has led to additional citations and $107,500 in proposed fines from OSHA. The follow-up inspection was the result of safety problems first identified approximately three years ago.

Alleged violations of safety standards include five instances of repeat violations involving the failure of the company to train workers in lockout/tagout procedures that prevent machines from being accidentally energized when workers are fixing or maintaining them. OSHA issued a willful violation after finding instances of lockout/tagout devices not affixed to machinery, and a serious citation for electrical hazards.

"The $107,000 fine is the maximum allowed under the law and reflects this Administration's concern with enforcing safety and health standards to protect workers," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

OSHA's latest inspection of the soap product manufacturer was conducted as follow-up to a December 2000 inspection. The inspection in 2000 revealed lockout/tagout training deficiencies that may have contributed to at least five serious injuries that year.

Headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., Dial employs about 360 workers in Montgomery out of its total national employment level of some 3,500 workers. The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




OSHA Fines Employer $138,000 Following Investigation of Explosive Blast

An Appleton, Wis., company is facing $138,600 in fines proposed by OSHA following a June 2003 accident in which an employee died from electrocution while conducting an explosive blast underneath power lines during road construction work for a new roadway on Highway 45 near New London, Wis.

An OSHA investigation into the fatality revealed that Ahlgrimm Explosives, Inc., a company that conducts blasting operations in quarries and for road building, directed employees to blast in the proximity of overhead power lines without taking measures for safe control, and for allowing an individual not adequately trained or experienced in such blasts to perform the work, alleged willful violations of federal workplace safety standards. The agency also designated as willful the use of electric blasting caps where high power lines made the use of electric blasting caps dangerous.

The company, founded in 1963, employs approximately 26 workers and has an extensive inspection history with the U.S. Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA Area Director Melvin Lischefski, Appleton, Wis., said that the company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




OSHA Investigations Leads to $148,500 in Penalties for Patrick Cudahy, Inc.

Meat packing giant Patrick Cudahy, Inc., is facing $148,500 in fines proposed by OSHA following an inspection opened in May 2003 in response to reports of an industrial accident in which three employees were severely burned.

Three workers were reported to have been troubleshooting electrical switchgear at the Cudahy, Wis., facility when electricity arched and exploded. OSHA's investigation revealed that the three workers, all of whom received first, second and third degree burns throughout their bodies, were not using insulated tools, were not wearing proper personal protective equipment, and were not following appropriate safety standards. OSHA issued willful and serious violations to Cudahy for allegedly failing to provide such equipment, and warning or training the workers about flash hazards.

The company employs over 1,400 full-time workers at its Cudahy facility. OSHA District Manager George Yoksas, Milwaukee, said that the workplace safety and health agency has conducted 28 inspections at the facility since 1972, issuing a total of three willful, 16 serious and one repeat citation.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




OSHA Finds Failure to Provide Safety Devices, Training After Accident

A Sparta, Wis., company is facing $150,000 in fines proposed by OSHA following a May 2003 accident in which an employee suffered several fractures to his pelvis, right leg and both hips while performing preventative maintenance on a conveyor system at the facility.

An OSHA investigation into the accident revealed that the Sparta Hardwoods Division of Midwest Hardwoods Corporation failed to develop machine-specific procedures to control hazardous energy sources and to train employees in energy lockout procedures. OSHA also charged the Sparta hardwood mill with failing to provide locks or other hardware to isolate energy during machinery servicing.

The Sparta Hardwoods mill employs about 24 workers in Sparta and is a division of Maple Grove, Minn., based Midwest Hardwood Corp. The Sparta mill had not previously been inspected by OSHA.

OSHA Area Director Kimberly Stille, Madison, Wis., said that the company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




Bottling Company Agrees To Pay $205,200 In Penalties For Failing To Implement Confined Space Safety Procedures

Ab-Tex Beverage Ltd. of Abilene, Texas, has agreed to pay $205,200 in penalties for citations issued by OSHA for the company's failure to protect workers against hazards when entering confined spaces.

OSHA began its investigation June 4, 2003, in response to an employee complaint and found the company was not ensuring that their workers were following OSHA's standards and regulations when they entered a confined space. In this instance, Ab-Tex Beverage did not determine the safety conditions of a sugar tank before workers entered it, including whether there was sufficient breathable air in the tank.

The company was cited for five willful, 25 serious, and 11 other violations. Ab-Tex Beverage, which specializes in the manufacture and bottling of beverage products, is headquartered in Abilene and employs about 500 workers statewide, 250 of who are located in Abilene.

The inspection consisted of both safety and health components. Among the alleged willful violations were failing to implement or post the required procedures when entering a confined space; failing to train employees about the hazards of entering a confined space; failing to monitor workers while they were in the confined space; and failing to provide guardrails on a platform exposing employees to fall hazards. A willful citation is issued for violations committed with disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

The alleged serious violations included failing to provide a physical guard between a worker and a machine to prevent amputations, failing to protect employees against contact with electric wiring, and failing to train employees on the hazards of the chemicals with which they were working. OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition about which the employer knew or should have known.

Other alleged violations included failing to adequately brace or repair ladders to prevent falls and failing to ensure that compress gas cylinders were properly secured to avoid toppling over.

Ab-Tex Beverage has agreed to make significant improvements in the company's safety and health program in addition to paying the penalties.




OSHA Offers Tips To Protect Workers In Cold Environments

With the onset of cold weather, OSHA is reminding employers and workers to take necessary precautions, such as those listed on OSHA's Cold Stress Card, to prevent and treat cold-related health problems. Workers in construction, commercial fishing, maritime and agriculture are among those who need to take precautions.

Prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures may cause serious health problems such as trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. In extreme cases, including cold water immersion, exposure can lead to death. Danger signs include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue and confused behavior. If these signs are observed, call for emergency help.

OSHA's Cold Stress Card provides a reference guide and recommendations to combat and prevent many illnesses and injuries. Available in English and Spanish, this laminated fold-up card is free to employers, workers and the public. Tips include:

How to Protect Workers

  • Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that may be dangerous.
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do to help workers.
  • Train workers about cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
  • Encourage workers to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions.
  • Be sure workers in extreme conditions take a frequent short break in warm dry shelters to allow their bodies to warm up.
  • Try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day.
  • Avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
  • Use the buddy system - work in pairs so that one worker can recognize danger signs.
  • Drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks) and avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
  • Eat warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes.
  • Remember, workers face increased risks when they take certain medications, are in poor physical condition or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease.

For free copies of OSHA's Cold Stress Card in English or Spanish, go to http://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/pubindex.list, or call 800-321-OSHA.