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Region 4 News Release: USDOL: 01-85
Thurs., May 31, 2001
Contact: William A. Burke
Phone: (205) 731-1534 ext. 0
OSHA CITES TUSCALOOSA, ALA., PLANT FOR SERIOUS SAFETY AND HEALTH VIOLATIONS; PROPOSES $85,075 IN PENALTIES
ATLANTA -- The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration yesterday cited Empire Coke Co. and proposed penalties totaling $85,075 for 23 serious safety and health violations following January inspections at the Tuscaloosa, Ala., plant.
"The agency inspected this facility, one of the oldest coke ovens in the country, because of its high lost workday injury and illness rates," said William Burke, OSHA's Birmingham acting area director. "Plant-wide, inspectors found 14 serious health violations and nine serious safety violations."
OSHA issued health citations, with penalties totaling $60,625 for failing to protect employees from overexposure to benzene and coke oven emissions in various operations throughout the plant -- regulated areas where overexposures were known to occur -- and where the company should have had engineering controls or written work practices in effect to reduce exposures. Also, the company did not properly monitor employee exposure levels and permitted employees to work in the area without approved respirators.
The company's medical surveillance program was cited for deficiencies. OSHA found that the company was not providing medical examinations and procedures at no cost to all employees. In addition, those employees examined by a physician were not given all test results and were not advised of medical conditions that might put them at greater risk of injury or illness.
Deficiencies were cited in both the company's health and safety training programs. The company, OSHA said, failed to properly train employees before assigning them to work in regulated areas and failed to properly train employees to recognize and control hazards associated with energy sources, such as having a "lockout/tag procedure in place to ensure that machines were inoperable during maintenance and repair.
Other serious safety citations, with penalties totaling $24,450, included numerous electrical violations and a truck-mounted crane used within four feet of an overhead power line.
"Electrocutions are a leading cause of death in the workplace," Burke said. "A serious citation," he continued, "is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard."
The Empire Coke Co., which employs approximately 10,000 workers nationwide and had 140 at this location, has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Inspections of the Tuscaloosa facility were conducted by OSHA's area office located at 2047 Canyon Rd., Birmingham, Ala. 35216; phone: (205) 731-1534.
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