Region 4 News Release: USDOL: 00-92
Thursday, June 01, 2000
Contact: John Hall
PHONE: (205) 731-1534, ext. 0
OSHA FINES SLOSS INDUSTRIES $154,000 FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH VIOLATIONS AT BIRMINGHAM PLANT
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today cited Sloss Industries Corporation and proposed penalties totaling $154,000 for safety and health violations found during an inspection of the company's Birmingham plant.
According to John Hall, OSHA's Birmingham area director, partial safety and health inspections were conducted as a result of a formal complaint from union representatives. The inspections covered the coke plant and the slag wool plant which are high hazard areas of Sloss Industries' operation.
"During our inspection of this plant, we found a broad range of safety and health hazards which were especially disturbing given the fact that OSHA has cited this employer in the past," said Hall.
OSHA's safety inspection resulted in 20 serious citations with a total proposed penalty of $66,500 and three repeat violations with proposed penalties of $45,000. Among the serious hazards, Sloss Industries was cited for having removed the deadman switches from the hot cars. These switches automatically turn off power in an emergency situation. Other serious violations concerned:
- lack of complete fall protection while cleaning the slag wool roof area;
- hazards in connection with lockout/tagout standards which require that machinery be rendered inoperable during maintenance and repair;
- unguarded floor holes;
- defective mobile work platforms;
- defective exit signs;
- flammable/combustible storage hazards;
- lack of training in the use of fire fighting equipment;
- failure to prohibit smoking in hazardous areas;
- electrical hazards, and
- hazards involving aisles and passageways, abrasive grinders, sprocket wheels and chains, and compressed air.
Electrical hazards and the absence of a guard rail to protect workers from a 25-foot fall hazard at the coal dump accounted for the repeat safety violations.
Twelve additional serious citations resulted from the health portion of OSHA's inspection. Six of these dealt with exposure to coke oven emissions which can be a carcinogenic hazard. Others concerned emergency eyewash where sulfuric acid is in use; blood borne pathogen training and hepatitis B vaccine, confined space hazards, and hazard communications training where carbon monoxide is present.
Also cited among the serious health hazards was the company practice of driving a front-end loader across hot slag rather than picking up the slag with a bucket and backing out of the pit trailing the load.
"Driving across hot slag exposes a front-end loader operator to fire hazards and obstructed vision due to steam," said Hall. "The company had already experienced several fires at the Birmingham plant and a fatality had resulted in 1999 at another subsidiary of the company."
Hall added, "Employees working in an area where hot cars were in use were also placed at risk. The removal of deadman switches from the hot cars exposed these employees to being struck by or run over by the equipment."
A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
Repeat violations occur when an employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Sloss Industries employs approximately 450 workers at the Birmingham site. The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to contest OSHA's citation and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The safety and health inspections were conducted by OSHA's area office located at Vestavia Village, 2047 Canyon Rd., Birmingham, Ala. 35216-1981; telephone: (205) 731-1534.
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