OSHA Cites Alabama Employer for Lack of Hearing Protection

Jan. 2, 2003
Choice Fabricators Inc., an employer in Attalia, Ala., received a loud and clear (and expensive) message from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA cited the company for exposing employees to the risk of hearing loss and other serious safety and health hazards and proposed penalties totaling $55,150.

Inspectors from OSHA's Birmingham area office began a health inspection at the plant on Aug. 12, and a safety inspection on Oct. 16, based on the facility's high lost workday injury and illness rate. Findings from the health inspection showed employees were exposed daily to noise levels that sometimes exceeded 100 decibels, well above the permissible limit of 85 decibels where hearing loss may occur.

"Prolonged exposure to excessive noise is one of the most pervasive occupational health hazards," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's Birmingham area director. "Company managers knew about the risks to employees, but they decided not to implement a hearing conservation program."

The company received one willful citation with a proposed penalty of $38,500 for failing to establish and maintain an audiometric testing program. A testing program monitors exposed workers' hearing abilities and provides an opportunity to educate them about protecting their hearing. OSHA issues a willful citation when the alleged violation is committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The company also received eight serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $16,650. Alleged health violations include failing to provide adequate eye protection and emergency eye flushing facilities and proper medical evaluations for employees using respirators, failure to provide safety training and inadequate records maintenance.

Alleged safety violations include failing to remove easily ignitable material, such as weeds and long, dry grass from the area around liquid propane gas containers and failure to provide a fire extinguisher in the area. Other serious citations were for machine-guarding hazards and for failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures to make sure that machines do not start up when workers are doing maintenance or repairs on them. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Choice Fabricators has 15 working days to contest the OSHA 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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