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Region 4 News Release: USDOL: 00-84
Tuesday, May 16, 2000
Contact: Luis Santiago
PHONE: (912) 652-4393
OSHA FINES FITZGERALD, GA., PLANT $174,500 FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH VIOLATIONS
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today cited Elixir Industries (G&L Steel Division) and proposed penalties totaling $174,500 for safety and health violations found during an inspection of the company's Fitzgerald, Ga., plant.
According to Luis Santiago, OSHA's Savannah area director, safety and health inspections were conducted based on the Fitzgerald plant's high rate of lost workdays due to illness and injury in 1998.
The health inspection resulted in two willful citations with penalties of $110,000 for violation of OSHA's noise standards. The company did not train employees on the hazards of noise and noise protective measures and failed to provide audiometric testing to ensure that employees were not suffering hearing loss.
An additional $10,000 penalty was proposed for two serious health violations - failure to provide eye washes and emergency showers for employees who might be exposed to battery acid and failure to provide protective follow-up measures for employees who had suffered hearing losses. The remaining $4,000 health-related fine was proposed for two other-than-serious violations for failing to make OSHA noise standard information available to employees and for failing to complete illness and injury logs accurately.
Eight additional citations - seven serious and one repeat - with a combined penalty of $50,500 resulted from OSHA's safety inspection of the plant. The repeat violation concerned lockout-tagout standards which require that machinery be rendered inoperable during maintenance and repair to protect workers from amputations and other injuries. The company had been previously cited for a similar violation at its facility in Douglas, Ga.
The serious safety violations included: not adequately protecting gasoline and liquified petroleum gas tanks from damage and spills; not guarding equipment that exposed employees to lacerations and amputations, and failing to protect workers from electrical hazards by not identifying electrical circuits and not guarding equipment that could cause electrocution.
"OSHA has particular concern when an employer knowingly places employees at risk," said Santiago. "The Fitzgerald plant established a hearing conservation program, including annual audiograms, from 1994 through 1996 after the Douglas plant was cited for failing to establish such a program. In 1997, the company discontinued the testing at the Fitzgerald facility, disregarding written notices by the safety consultant, safety manager and an audiologist, all of whom stressed the importance of audiometric testing to conserve employee hearing."
Santiago continued, "This employer had been previously cited in 1998 and 1999 at facilities in Douglas, Ga., Reidsville, N.C. and Elkhart, Ind., for lockout-tagout hazards. Yet, we found similar problems during our recent inspection of the Fitzgerald plant."
A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.
Repeat violations occur when an employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
Santiago said, "Hopefully, these citations for willful and repeat safety and health violations will encourage Elixir to take appropriate action so that its high rate of injury and illness will diminish and its workers will be assured of a safer, more secure workplace."
Elixir Industries, headquartered in Gardena, Calif., has 20 manufacturing plants employing approximately 1,500 workers in 15 states. Ninety of those workers manufacture metal siding, steel and other metal fabrications and mobile home roofs at the Fitzgerald facility. The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Inspections of the worksite were conducted by OSHA's area office located at 450 Mall Boulevard, Suite J, Savannah, Ga. 31406; telephone: (912) 652-4393.
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