Conveyor Hazards are not What the Doctor Ordered

Jan. 14, 2003
It's hard medicine to swallow, but OSHA has fined a Worcester, Mass, CVS Pharmacy $61,575 for unguarded conveyor belts that exposed workers to possible fractures and crushing injuries.

OSHA's inspection of the pharmacy was initiated Nov. 8 in response to a complaint. Investigators found that a conveyor belt used to move product between the basement and a first floor storage area lacked guarding to prevent employees from coming in contact with its pinch points. According to Ronald E. Morin, OSHA's area director for central and western Massachusetts, two workers in the Worcester store were injured by the unguarded machinery earlier this year.

"What's significant is that CVS was cited for the same hazard at its Danvers, Mass., store in August 2001 and agreed to fix the problem but was again cited in November 2001 for failing to do so," said Morin. "As a result, we're citing the company for an alleged willful violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and proposing a fine of $55,000."

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.

The inspection also found that employees were not instructed on how to prevent accidental startups of the conveyor belt while clearing product jams and the company lacked written instructions for doing so. Employees also faced tripping hazards from material stored directly in front of the conveyor. These conditions resulted in three alleged serious violations with $6,375 in proposed fines.

A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

A fine of $200 was proposed for an alleged repeat violation for blocked access to electrical panels. OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer has previously been cited for a substantially similar hazard. CVS had been cited in September 2000 for a similar hazard at a Scotia, N.Y., store.

CVS 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.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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