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Region 5

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Region 5 News Release: 11-1584-CHI
Nov. 3, 2011
Contact: Scott Allen Rhonda Burke
Phone: 312-353-6976 312-353-6976

US Department of Labor's OSHA cites American Phoenix in Eau Claire, Wis.,
for exposing workers to combustible dust, failing to use protective equipment

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited American Phoenix Inc. for 12 safety and health violations at the company's rubber producing facility in Eau Claire. Proposed fines total $51,480.

"American Phoenix has a responsibility to ensure its employees are properly protected from known hazards in the workplace," said Mark Hysell, OSHA's area director in Eau Claire. "Failure to ensure workers use protective clothing and respiratory protection when exposed to potentially hazardous materials demonstrates a lack of regard for their safety and health. OSHA is committed to protecting workers, especially when employers fail to do so."

The company was cited for six serious health violations involving exposing workers to combustible dust hazards; failing to require workers to wear flame-resistant clothing while performing activities where combustible dust is present; failing to implement a continuing and effective hearing conservation program; failing to conduct a hazard assessment to determine if the use of personal protective equipment is necessary; failing to identify and monitor exposures to respiratory hazards, such as carbon black dust; failing to ensure surfaces were maintained free from accumulations of dust and waste containing asbestos, as well as other hazardous compounds; and failing to implement and train workers on a hazard communication program.

American Phoenix also was cited for four serious safety violations including electrical hazards; the lack of personal protective equipment; and failing to maintain work areas in a sanitary condition by allowing excessive amounts of potentially hazardous dust to collect on ledges, walls and rafters. 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.

Two other-than-serious safety violations involved the use of flexible cords and cables as a substitute for fixed wiring, and failing to provide workers with information on voluntary respirator use. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

The inspection was initiated in May as the result of a complaint made to OSHA. Golden Valley, Minn.-based American Phoenix was cited in 2002 for similar violations, such as exposure to hazardous compounds and the lack of a hearing conservation program. In addition to its Eau Claire rubber facility, the company has five other facilities that supply custom compounds and other related materials to the manufactured polymer industry. The other manufacturing sites are located in Anniston, Ala.; Topeka, Kan.; Roseville, Minn.; Lawton, Okla.; and Trenton, Tenn.

The company 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 Eau Claire Area Office at 608-441-5388.

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


U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at 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.