March 16, 2015
Behr Iron & Steel recycling plants face penalties of $366K for continued
exposure of workers to machine, fall and confined space hazards
OSHA cites company for 5 willful, 9 serious safety violations at Illinois facilities
ROCKFORD, Ill. – Once again, workers were exposed to dangerous amputation hazards* during maintenance and while processing scrap metal because safety mechanisms were not in place at Behr Iron & Steel facilities in Rockford and Peoria. The September 2014 inspections by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration yielded penalties of $366,400 for five willful and nine serious safety violations, including fall and confined space hazards.
OSHA initiated inspections at three of Behr Iron & Steel's facilities under the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program after similar hazards were found during an investigation into the death of a worker at the company's recycling facility in South Beloit in March 2014.
"Behr Iron & Steel continues to fail its workers by not implementing required safety procedures at its facilities, despite repeated OSHA violations and serious injuries to workers," said Nick Walters, regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago. "OSHA's investigation found that safety training within the company remains inefficient and employees are exposed to amputation and other serious hazards when operating metal shredding equipment. Behr must make immediate health and safety program improvements. No worker should be subject to such conditions to earn a living."
The company received two willful violations for exposing workers to operating parts of dangerous machinery during service and maintenance at its Rockford Yard and Quaker Road facility in Rockford. The company failed to use energy control procedures, such as powering off and affixing locking devices, to prevent unintentional operation of machinery. Behr also failed to conduct annual inspections of these procedures for effectiveness. The company had similar violations in 2014 and 2010.
To process scrap metal at its Peoria facility, workers must enter a sorting house conveyor to use the shredder. In its inspection, OSHA investigators noted three willful and three serious violations involving permit-required confined space safety regulations. A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, such as the sorting house, but it has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Behr failed to complete a permit-required confined spaces entry permit; did not use testing and monitoring* or ventilating equipment to evaluate the permit space condition prior to entry; and failed to train and require employees to use rescue and emergency equipment.
A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.
Behr also allowed workers to unjam a sorting house conveyor and operate other dangerous machinery without protecting them from operating parts at its Rockford facility. This practice and confined space hazards were cited in the 2014 employee death in South Beloit.
Inspectors also noted workers in Rockford were exposed to falls and trips from unguarded floor openings and platforms of up to 10 feet in height and had to walk across a conveyor system to enter and exit workstations in the sorting house.
In 2013, fatal falls, slips or trips took the lives of 699 workers, with falls to a lower level accounting for 574 of those fatalities. Fall and machine hazards are the most frequently cited OSHA standards.
In total, nine serious violations were issued. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.
To view the current citations, visit:
Prior to the current OSHA inspections, the company had been inspected seven times in the previous five years and cited for machine hazards at various locations in Illinois and Iowa. In addition to the March 2014 fatality in South Beloit, numerous violations were issued by Iowa OSHA to the company's Mason City, Iowa, shredding facility after an employee's arm became trapped and seriously injured while entering a permit-required confined space to perform cleaning operations in March 2010. After receiving a complaint, OSHA conducted an investigation and issued multiple citations in September 2010 to the company's Peoria, Illinois, shredding facility.
Rockford, Illinois-based Behr Iron & Steel is a wholly owned subsidiary of Joseph Behr & Sons Inc., a recycling company founded in 1906. The company employs approximately 450 employees at 14 operating facilities in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. In 2011, Behr Iron & Steel changed the advertised name of all of its operating locations to Behr Iron & Metal.
Behr Iron & Steel has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and 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.
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 North Aurora Area Office at 630-896-8700 or Peoria Area Office at 309-589-7033.
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.
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Release Number: 15-397-CHI
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