"We must make sure that employers protect employees from workplace hazards to ensure that injury and illness rates continue to decline," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "The significant penalty of $159,000 in this case demonstrates the Labor Department's commitment to protecting the health and safety of America's workers."
The company received two alleged willful citations, with proposed penalties totaling $110,000, for exposing workers to serious injuries from unguarded "points of operation" on box-making machinery and uncovered, energized electrical connections. The investigation, which began on Jan. 27, found that management had been made aware of the requirement to install machinery guards following a 2002 accident, and that maintenance crews were routinely failing to replace covers on electrical panels and connections after cleaning operations.
Additionally, the company received 17 alleged serious citations, with proposed penalties of $49,000, for exposing workers to fall hazards from unguarded stairs and work platforms; failing to provide employees with personal protective equipment and follow lockout-tagout procedures that render machinery inoperable during cleaning and maintenance; failing to maintain an emergency eye wash station; blocking emergency exits; improper use of compressed air; and additional machine guarding and electrical hazards.
OSHA initiated the inspection, as a "follow-up" to an August 2003 fatality investigation.
The agency issues a willful citation when a company has shown intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious citation is issued when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
The company, which also operates plants in Florida and North Carolina, has 15 working days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.