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Region 5 News Release: 12-1562-CHI
Aug. 07, 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 US Cotton in Cleveland for
exposing workers to amputation hazards by failing to guard machines
Company placed in Severe Violator Enforcement Program

CLEVELAND – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited U.S. Cotton LLC for six violations, including one willful violation for failing to guard swab machines to prevent amputation injuries. OSHA initiated an inspection in February at the company's Cleveland facility after a worker alleged having a finger amputated. Proposed fines total $133,100.

Specifically, the willful violation involves failing to guard the transfer wheels of 54 swab machines to prevent workers from coming into contact with nip points, rotating parts and shearing/crushing areas. 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 is failing to properly guard 12 automatic pack machines to prevent workers from being injured by coming into contact with their points of operation. 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 same facility.

Four serious violations involve failing to properly guard the cardboard baler units, the gear assembly of the square/comber machinery and the feed rolls used in the production of cosmetic cotton. 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.

"Employers must actively protect their workers from the dangers inherent in operating manufacturing machinery," said Howard Eberts, OSHA's area director in Cleveland. "The fact that this company was previously cited and failed to effectively safeguard all of its machines demonstrates a lack of commitment to the safety of its workers."

Due to the willful and repeat violations and the nature of the hazards, OSHA has placed U.S. Cotton 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.

Gastonia, N.C.-headquartered U.S. Cotton LLC manufactures health and beauty aide cotton products, and has additional locations in Rio Rancho, N.M., Charlotte, N.C., and Montreal, Canada. The Cleveland plant, which employs about 789 workers, previously was inspected in 2011 and cited for four violations.

The citations can be viewed at: http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/USCottonLLC_280144_0806_12.pdf*.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the current citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area office or contest the citations and penalties 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 Cleveland Area Office at 216-615-4266.

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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