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Region 5 News Release: 12-755-CHI
May 1, 2012
Contact: Scott Allen      Rhonda Burke
Phone:        312-353-6976
Email: allen.scott@dol.gov      burke.rhonda@dol.gov

US Labor Department's OSHA cites Johnson Controls Battery Group
for exposing workers to lead, other hazards at Holland, Ohio, plant

HOLLAND, Ohio – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Johnson Controls Battery Group Inc. for 11 alleged health violations - including one willful and two repeat - following an Oct. 25 inspection that was initiated based on a complaint. Inspectors found workers overexposed to lead at the company's Holland plant due to a lack of engineering controls and poor housekeeping practices. Proposed fines total $188,600.

"Johnson Controls Battery Group has a responsibility to protect the health of its employees by assuring they operate in a manner to eliminate or minimize lead hazards and other hazardous substances used in the work environment," said Denise Keller, assistant area director of OSHA's Toledo Area Office. "Employers who are cited for repeat violations demonstrate a lack of commitment to employee safety and health."

The willful violation is allowing workers to sweep lead particles with brooms and brushes, which can result in greater lead exposure than the preferred method of vacuuming. 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.

The first repeat violation involves employee exposed to lead over the permissible exposure level The second repeat violation involves inadequate housekeeping in the pasting department. 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. Similar violations were cited in 2011 at the company's Tampa, Fla., location.

Additionally, eight serious violations include exposing workers to ingoing nip points on the pasting lines as well as various violations of the lead standards, including a lack of adequate personal protective equipment, such as face shields and hand protection for employees working with molten lead; improperly worn respirators in an area where the permissible exposure limit for lead is exceeded; allowing lead-contaminated work boots to be stored in locker rooms where employees change into street shoes; failing to conduct air monitoring for employees exposed to lead for more than eight hours; and ensuring that workers wash their hands to remove contaminants prior to eating. 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.

The citations may be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/JohnsonControlBatteryGroup_108096_0424_12.pdf.*

Due to the willful and repeat violations, OSHA has placed Johnson Controls Battery Group Inc. in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. For more information about the program, visit http://s.dol.gov/J3.

Johnson Controls Battery Group is a division of Milwaukee, Wis.-based Johnson Controls Inc., which manufactures automotive batteries and advanced batteries for start-stop, hybrid and electric vehicles. Johnson Controls Inc. has manufacturing, recycling and distribution centers worldwide, and employs more than 140,000 workers. The Holland plant employs more than 400 workers.

Prior to this inspection, Johnson Controls Battery Group has been inspected by OSHA 14 times since 2006, resulting in citations for 64 violations, including 15 final order citations for violations of lead standards.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its current 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 Toledo office at 419-259-7542.

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 or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755


* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.


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