OSHA Hammers out Big Fine for Metal Manufacturer

Aug. 13, 2002
The high rate of employee injuries and illnesses at metal manufacturer's Parkersburg, W. Va., facility prompted an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that revealed serious and potentially life-threatening hazards for workers.

OSHA found 23 safety and health violations at the company and proposed penalties of $288,000.

OSHA alleges the Louis Berkman Partnership, doing business as Dover Parkersburg, exposed its workers to a range of hazards by failing to provide proper machine guarding, training and personal protective equipment. The company employs approximately 900 workers, including 46 at the Parkersburg facility. It produces galvanized steel trashcans, pails, mobile home skirting and funnels.

The citations are the result of a comprehensive safety and health inspection that began on Feb. 15. The Parkersburg facility came to OSHA's attention through the agency's Site Specific Targeting Program, which identifies facilities with injury and illness rates higher than national averages. The company's lost workday injury and illness rates (LWDII) were higher than the industry average of 10.3. (LWDII rates are numbers of injuries or illnesses resulting in lost workdays or restricted activity for every 100 full-time workers).

"Unfortunately, this company placed production and profit before the safety and health of their employees," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "Management was not only aware of hazards at the worksite, but even attempted to hide them from us. We will not hesitate to exercise strong enforcement when an employer willfully disregards worker safety."

OSHA issued four alleged willful instance-by-instance citations for failure to provide machine guarding, proposing penalties of $49,500 per instance. An additional alleged willful citation was issued for failure to provide and ensure employees used appropriate personal protective equipment. Total proposed penalties for the willful violations totaled $247,500.

OSHA slapped the company with18 alleged serious violations for a variety of hazards, including lack of machine guarding; mechanical power press deficiencies; dangerous noise levels; unsafe electrical practices; storage of oxygen cylinders with fuel-gas cylinders; failure to provide training for hazard communication, energy control procedures and exposure control for first aid responders; unguarded shafts; and failure to ensure that employees were wearing proper eye protection. Proposed penalties totaled $40,500.

A willful violation is defined as one committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations. A serious violation is 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.

The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties 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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