Failure to Abate Safety Hazards Can be Costly

Ignoring OSHA's demand to abate hazards can be costly. Just ask J.T.S. Woodworking Inc.'s facility in Delray Beach, Fla., which just got socked with additional fines of $27,800 nearly four times the original fine for failing to correct safety hazards identified during a September inspection.

During a Sept. 10 inspection of the custom-made wood cabinetry shop, OSHA found employees in the finishing section exposed to hazards from paint and lacquer vapors, improperly stored flammable materials, and an excessive accumulation of paint in the spray booths. The agency issued six serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $7,250.

On Dec.17, after the company failed to respond to agency inquiries for documentation verifying that the hazardous conditions had been corrected, a follow-up inspection was conducted. Investigators found three uncorrected hazards, three hazards that had been allowed to re-occur, and a new electrical hazard.

"This company was given adequate time to correct hazardous conditions cited in September, but did little or nothing to improve plant safety," said Luis Santiago, OSHA's Ft. Lauderdale area director. "OSHA's primary purpose in citing a company is to protect workers by correcting hazards that could cause future accidents or injuries."

The agency cited the company, and proposed $17,000 in penalties, for failure to abate cited hazards that exposed employees to harmful fumes because they were not properly fitted and instructed in the use of respirators, and for hazards associated with the build-up of paint, lacquer and debris in spray booths. The company also continued to have no hazard communication program to provide information to workers about potentially dangerous substances in their work place.

Three repeat citations were issued for hazards that had been allowed to re-occur: containers used to transfer flammable liquids were not properly connected or grounded and were stored near electrical panels, a potential ignition source. Penalties totaling $8,400 were proposed for the repeat violations, which OSHA may charge when an employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition.

Also, during the follow-up inspection, employees were observed using handheld electrical tools with frayed and damaged cords, for which OSHA issued a serious citation with a proposed penalty of $2,000.

The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, request an informal hearing with Santiago, or pay the penalties.

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