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Region 4 News Release: 11-862-ATL (273)
June 14, 2011
Contact: Michael D'Aquino      Michael Wald
Phone: 404-562-2076      404-562-2078
Email: d'aquino.michael@dol.gov      wald.michael@dol.gov

US Department of Labor's OSHA cites Cooper Tire and Rubber,
2 contractors in Tupelo, Miss., for combustible dust and other hazards
OSHA proposes nearly $255,000 in penalties

TUPELO, Miss. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. and two of its maintenance contractors with 25 safety violations at the company's Tupelo plant, including exposing workers to hazards associated with combustible dust. Proposed penalties total $254,900.

OSHA opened a December 2010 inspection in Tupelo following one of the company's Findlay, Ohio, plant that uncovered multiple workplace hazards and resulted in proposed penalties of $213,500.

"The level of disregard for workers' safety demonstrated by these employers is truly shocking. Serious fire and explosion hazards existed due to the improper handling of carbon black in the storage silos, dust collections and dust handling systems," said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA's area office in Jackson. "It should not take a massive fire or explosion for employers to implement necessary safety measures to protect their employees."

Two willful violations with proposed penalties of $140,000 include failing to provide protection from fires and explosions in the plant's ductwork, particle size separators, dust collectors and conveyor systems; and failing to install equipment and use wiring methods that were approved specifically for hazardous locations. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

One repeat violation with a $16,500 penalty was cited for failing to replace or repair defective safety latches on a hoist. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The company received a citation for the same violation in 2007 at the Findlay plant.

Nine serious violations with penalties of $47,400 include failing to use a standard guardrail to protect employees from dangerous equipment, provide employees with fixed stairs that have uniform steps, provide standard railings on all fixed industrial stairways, mark electrical equipment to indicate its purpose, provide adequate work space in front of electrical equipment, use permanent wiring in place of flexible cord wiring and properly splice flexible electrical cords. Additionally, combustible dust was present in the handling systems, and air guns using compressed air for cleaning were operated at too high a velocity. 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 violations with no monetary penalties include failing to provide covers on pull boxes, junction boxes and fittings; and to provide strain relief on flexible cords. 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.

JESCO Maintenance Corp., a maintenance contractor at the plant, was cited with eight serious violations for failing to protect the dust collection and conveying system; repair or replace defective safety latches on a hoist; and provide standard railings on the railcar dock. JESCO also allowed explosive carbon black to accumulate; did not identify electrical connections to indicate their purpose, exposed workers to electrical hazards; provided insufficient working space in front of electrical panels; allowed the splicing of flexible cords instead of providing permanent wiring for equipment; and allowed the wiring and installations of equipment in hazardous locations not designed or approved for those locations. These violations carry proposed penalties of $44,000. Additionally, two other-than-serious violations with no monetary penalties were cited for using pull boxes with missing covers and not providing strain relief on flexible cords.

IH Services, another maintenance contractor, was cited for one serious violation with a $7,000 penalty for installing equipment and using wiring methods in hazardous locations that were not approved.

The three companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The site was inspected by OSHA's Jackson Area Office, 100 W. Capitol St., Suite 749, Jackson, Miss. 39269; telephone 601-965-4606. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

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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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.


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