US Labor Department's OSHA issues fine exceeding $3 million against
Whitesell Corp. for safety and health violations at 2 Alabama factories
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today fined Whitesell Corp. $3,071,500 and cited the company with 72 safety and health violations for exposing workers to amputation hazards and other problems at its manufacturing plants in Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals, Ala.
"Whitesell willfully tampered with the safety mechanisms of its hydraulic forging presses at its Tuscumbia plant to speed up production, resulting in the amputation of a worker's hand," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Companies like Whitesell that value short-term gain over their workers' safety will be held responsible for their reckless actions.
OSHA began an inspection of the Tuscumbia plant in March after receiving a report that a worker's hand had been amputated. Due to the seriousness of the hazards noted during that initial visit, the inspection was expanded to a comprehensive safety and health inspection of the facility. Three weeks later the inspection was again expanded to include the Muscle Shoals plant due to the probability that similar hazards existed at that location.
"This employer knowingly exposed these workers to serious injuries," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "The objective of OSHA's actions today is to save the hands, and perhaps the lives, of other workers in the future."
Regarding the Tuscumbia plant, OSHA is proposing $986,500 in penalties for 13 willful and five serious safety violations, as well as one willful, one serious and two other-than-serious health violations. The willful safety violations address management's failure to develop and utilize lockout/tagout procedures of energy sources for employees engaged in maintenance activities on hydraulic forging presses and bypassing a safety feature intended to protect workers. The serious safety citations concern hazards with machines lacking mechanical guards and electrical hazards. Health citations include management's failure to provide engineering or administrative controls for workers exposed to high noise hazards and to provide audiograms for those employees.
OSHA is proposing $2,085,000 in penalties regarding the Muscle Shoals plant for 28 willful and 16 serious safety violations, and one willful and five serious health violations. The willful safety violations address this plant's failure to develop and utilize lockout/tagout procedures for the plant's mechanical forging presses and to lock out mechanical forging presses when dies are changed or maintenance is performed. The serious citations are related to obstructed exit routes, various machine guarding hazards and electrical hazards. Health citations include a willful violation for management's failure to provide audiograms for employees exposed to noise hazards. The serious violations address failure to implement controls for employees exposed to the noise hazards, as well as electrical deficiencies and lack of hazard communication.
OSHA issues a willful citation when it finds a violation committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for legal requirements or employee safety and health. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The Tuscumbia plant employs about 17 workers and manufactures parts used in the automotive, lawn care and home appliance industries. The Muscle Shoals plant employs about 103 workers and manufactures fasteners. Whitesell employs about 1,000 workers corporate-wide and has about 25 locations combined in Michigan, Iowa, Alabama, Canada and Asia.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The sites were inspected by staff from OSHA's area office located at 950 22nd St. N., Room 1050, Birmingham, AL 35203; telephone 205-731-1534. To report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-6742.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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