US Labor Department's OSHA cites 2 companies, proposes $288,000 in fines
for workplace safety and health violations involving foreign students
Summer workers repackaged Hershey candies at Palmyra, Pa., facility
PALMYRA, Pa. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Exel Inc. for nine ¿ including six willful ¿ workplace safety and health violations at the Eastern Distribution Center III, a facility in Palmyra owned by the Hershey Co. and operated by Exel. Proposed penalties total $283,000. OSHA also has cited the SHS Group LP, doing business as SHS Staffing Solutions, for one violation with a proposed penalty of $5,000.
The agency's inspection was conducted in response to a complaint filed by the National Guestworker Alliance on behalf of a group of foreign students who were performing summer jobs at the Palmyra facility under the U.S. Department of State's J-1 visa program. Their visas were sponsored by the nonprofit organization Council for Educational Travel-USA. The complaint alleges a number of abuses of the visa program, which is designed to promote cultural exchange, as well as exploitative and unsafe conditions in the workplace.
Under a contract with Exel, SHS Staffing Solutions hired the students to work at the Palmyra site repackaging Hershey candies for promotional displays. Exel is a contract logistics provider headquartered in Westerville, Ohio, with more than 40,000 employees at more than 500 sites in North America.
Exel was responsible for record keeping in the Palmyra facility. OSHA has cited the six willful violations with penalties totaling $280,000 for failing to record injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 300 log for four years, evaluate the accuracy of the 300 logs before certifying them for three years, and develop and implement an effective hearing conservation program. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowledge or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
"Nothing useful can be learned from an unrecorded injury," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "Accurate records provide critical information to employers and employees about the cause and prevention of work-related injuries. The law requires employers to maintain complete and accurate records because, without these, it is more difficult to prevent additional injuries and illnesses from occurring."
SHS Staffing Solutions, a temporary staffing provider headquartered in Lemoyne, has been cited with one serious violation for failing to provide training to employees on the lockout/tagout of energy sources. 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.
Exel also has been cited for three other-than-serious violations carrying a $3,000 penalty related to inadequate record keeping. An other-than-serious violation is one that probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
Additionally, the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division is investigating potential violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act relating to the work performed by the CETUSA-sponsored foreign students. Because CETUSA has withheld documents from investigators, the secretary of labor filed a petition to enforce an administrative subpoena against CETUSA in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in order to complete this investigation. On Feb. 7, Judge William W. Caldwell ordered CETUSA to file a response on or before Feb. 20 to explain to the court why the documents have not been produced. CETUSA has filed a response pursuant to the court's order, and further proceedings before Caldwell are anticipated.
Both Exel and SHS Staffing Solutions have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, ask for an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Harrisburg Area Office at 717-782-3902.
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 ensure 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.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.