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An Amputation and Safety and Health Violations Means More Fines for Much-cited Parent Company

Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co., a subsidiary of McWane Industries Inc., was cited by OSHA for safety and health violations including lockout/tagout procedures that ensure machines are not turned on by mistake.

The Phillipsburg, N.J.-company faces proposed penalties of $130,000 for a Dec. 7, 2002, accident in which an employee suffered an amputation of three fingers while helping another worker clean a cement mixer. OSHA issued six repeat violations with a proposed penalty of $117,500, three serious violations with a penalty of $12,500, and three other-than serious violation that carry no penalty.

According to Robert Kulick, area director of the Avenel OSHA office, leading up to the Dec. 7, 2002, incident, the company did not conduct a periodic review of lockout/tagout procedures or verify that the procedures were being followed. Other repeat violations include uncovered floor holes, standards surrounding the safe operation of forklift trucks and lack of training for employees exposed to silica and formaldehyde.

The serious safety violations address the company's failure to provide locks or other hardware to isolate energy sources, protect employees from welding rays, and splice flexible cords properly. The serious health violations were issued for lack of sanitary washing facility and hand towels, failure to provide and maintain required personal protective equipment and wet floors that expose employees to slipping hazards.

Serious citations are defined as those where there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer or should have known of the hazard. Repeat citations are issued when the company has been cited previously for a substantially similar hazard.

According to OSHA, Atlantic States has indicated a desire to improve the safety and health conditions of its facility and the agency hopes that progress will be made.

McWane Industries Inc. was the subject of a New York Times/Frontline/ Canadian Broadcasting Corp. expose about dangerous working conditions. On April 11, another McWane subsidiary, Tyler Pipe Co. of Tyler, Tex., agreed to pay a fine of $196,000 for serious, repeat and less-than-serious violations of OSHA standards. That subsidiary paid a $1 million fine in August 2002 for violating workplace standards.

In April 2003, management of the Birmingham, Ala.-based McWane Industries Inc. met with the national leadership of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) to discuss cooperative efforts toward a goal of providing a safe work environment. Representatives from the company approached OSHA and indicated a desire to improve safety and health at the company and enhance the safety program.

At the meeting between USWA and McWane, the union acknowledged the substantial investment in health and safety that McWane has already made, and the company's commitment to further improvements. McWane and the USWA also agreed to establish a corporate-level, joint union-management safety and health task force to improve the effectiveness of the joint health and safety committees at each plant and increase employee involvement in the company's efforts to further improve its safety programs.

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