OSHA has cited U.S. Cotton LLC for six violations, including one willful violation for failing to guard swab machines to prevent amputation injuries. OSHA initiated an inspection in February at the company's Cleveland, Ohio facility after a worker alleged having a finger amputated. Proposed fines total $133,100 and OSHA has placed the company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
According to OSHA, the employer failed to guard the transfer wheels of 54 swab machines to prevent workers from coming into contact with nip points, rotating parts and shearing/crushing areas. OSHA issued a willful violation, claiming the employer exhibited intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or was plainly indifference to worker safety and health.
"Employers must actively protect their workers from the dangers inherent in operating manufacturing machinery," said Howard Eberts, OSHA's area director in Cleveland. "The fact that this company was previously cited and failed to effectively safeguard all of its machines demonstrates a lack of commitment to the safety of its workers."
One repeat violation was issued for allegedly failing to properly guard 12 automatic pack machines to prevent workers from being injured by coming into contact with their points of operation. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last 5 years. Similar violations were cited in 2011 at the same facility.
Four serious violations involve failing to properly guard the cardboard baler units, the gear assembly of the square/comber machinery and the feed rolls used in the production of cosmetic cotton. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Due to the willful and repeat violations and the nature of the hazards, OSHA has placed U.S. Cotton in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.
Gastonia, N.C.-headquartered U.S. Cotton LLC manufactures health and beauty aide cotton products, and has additional locations in Rio Rancho, N.M.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Montreal, Canada. The Cleveland plant, which employs about 789 workers, previously was inspected in 2011 and cited for four violations.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the current citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with Eberts or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.