Department of Labor Logo OSHA News Release - Region 4


January 17, 2024

 

US Department of Labor finds electric vehicle battery manufacturer exposed employees to unsafe nickel levels, other mixed metals at Commerce plant

SK Battery America Inc. cited for 6 serious violations; faces $70K in fines


ATLANTA – A global electric vehicle battery manufacturer exposed employees at its Commerce plant to serious and potentially disabling safety and health hazards, a U.S. Department of Labor workplace safety inspection found.

The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited SK Battery America Inc. with six serious violations and one other-than-serious violation after finding the company:

  • Subjected employees to continuous noise levels exceeding the 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 A-weighted decibels by not developing a monitoring program, nor establishing an audiometric testing program, including a valid baseline audiogram.
  • Exposed employees working with cobalt, nickel and manganese to respiratory hazards by failing to complete a workplace hazard assessment; ensure employees were given clean, disinfected and sanitary respirators; and store respirators properly to protect them from material contamination.
  • Failed to make certain that people working with corrosive materials had access to eyewash stations and emergency showers. 
  • Left workers handling bags of nickel powder vulnerable to respiratory hazards by not providing feasible administrative or engineering controls to reduce exposure levels. 

"The lithium battery industry has experienced unprecedented growth, and with that growth comes a heightened responsibility to ensure the safety of those at the forefront of innovation. SK Battery America Inc. is well aware that materials used to produce lithium batteries can cause debilitating and permanent health issues,” said OSHA Area Office Director Joshua Turner in Atlanta-East. "OSHA's continued efforts to identify and remain vigilant to these emerging hazards is key in helping the industry understand how to eliminate employee exposures in the workplace. No employer should overlook the reality that is not just about advancing technology; it is about prioritizing the safety of your employees.”

OSHA has proposed $75,449 in penalties, an amount set by federal statute. 

SK Battery America Inc., which employs about 3,100 people at its two battery manufacturing plants in Commerce, is a subsidiary of SK On, a global electric vehicle battery manufacturer. SK On is part of the Seoul-based SK Group, South Korea's second-largest conglomerate, which includes companies in energy, advanced materials, biopharmaceuticals and digital business.

SK Battery America Inc. has contested the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission

Visit OSHA's website for information on developing a workplace safety and health program. Employers can also contact the agency for information about OSHA's compliance assistance resources and for free help on complying with OSHA standards

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's sound level meter app is available to the public to download for free on mobile iOS devices. It measures sound levels in the workplace and provides noise exposure parameters to help reduce occupational noise-induced hearing loss. For information on workplace noise levels and safety, visit OSHA's noise exposure website

 

Media Contacts:

Erika B. Ruthman, 678-237-0630, ruthman.erika.b@dol.gov
Eric R. Lucero, 678-237-0630, lucero.eric.r@dol.gov

Release Number:  23-2495-ATL (19)