Dec. 16, 2014
Eaton Corp. cited for employee's heat-related kidney failure at
Kearney, Nebraska, automotive manufacturing plant
KEARNEY, Neb. — A dehydrated 53-year-old Eaton Corp. employee suffered acute kidney failure while working in extreme indoor heat at the company's automotive manufacturing plant. The employee, who worked at the facility for 20 years, operated industrial machinery at the Kearney plant on July 11, 2014, when the heat index soared to 101 degrees. The worker later recovered after being hospitalized for more than 24 hours to treat the illness.
A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection found the company failed to protect workers from exposure to excessive heat, which resulted in one serious health violation. OSHA has proposed fines of $7,000 for the serious violation related to the incident. A serious violation occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
"Heat illness can happen indoors year-round. Employers must accustom workers in industrial environments to their facility," said Bonita Winingham, OSHA's area director in Omaha. "This worker and thousands each year experience heat-related illnesses that can be prevented with common sense safety measures."
Labor-intensive activities can raise body temperature beyond the level that normally can be cooled by sweating. Heat illness initially may manifest as heat rash or heat cramps, but can quickly escalate to heat exhaustion and then heatstroke if simple, preventive measures are not followed. Heat illness disproportionately affects those who have not built up a tolerance to heat, and it is especially dangerous for new and temporary workers.
OSHA has developed heat illness educational materials and a workplace training curriculum in English and Spanish. Additionally, a Web page for workers and employers provides information and resources on how to prevent heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
OSHA has a free app for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites. The app displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index and reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level. Available for Android-based platforms and the iPhone, the app can be downloaded in English and Spanish by visiting http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html.
Eaton Corp., a global manufacturer based in Ireland, employs more than 100,000 workers. The company's U.S. headquarters are in Cleveland, Ohio. The Kearney plant employs about 540 workers.
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 Omaha Area Office at 402-553-0171.
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: 14-2090-KAN
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