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Region 4 News Release: USDOL: 00-146
Thurs., Aug. 17, 2000
Contact: Luis Santiago
PHONE: (912) 652-4393
OSHA FINES ST. MARYS, GA., PAPER MILL OVER $158,000 FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH VIOLATIONS
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today cited Durango-Georgia Paper Company and proposed penalties totaling $158,500 for safety violations found during inspection of an accident at the company's St. Marys, Ga., plant.
According to Luis Santiago, OSHA's Savannah area director, his office received a complaint after a worker's hand was crushed by the rollers of a machine he was cleaning.
The inspection resulted in two willful citations with penalties of $140,000 for exposing employees to unguarded paper machine rollers and requiring them to clean the rollers while they were moving.
An additional $18,500 penalty is proposed for four serious safety violations including failure to provide guardrails for two catwalks above the paper machines; failure to remove accumulated trash and debris on the catwalks; failure to guard belts and pulleys in various areas of the machines, and exposing employees to uncovered hot water and steam pipes.
"Modifications made to the paper machine in 1998 included removal of the machine's guard," said Santiago. "At that time, the maintenance superintendent and other employees raised concerns with upper management about the hazard created by the missing guard."
Santiago continued, "OSHA has particular concern when employees call management's attention to safety hazards and they are ignored." In this case, employees, a supervisor and an outside consultant alerted managers to the danger, but their advice went unheeded.
"This company had a lockout/tagout program, designed to render machinery inoperable during maintenance and repair, but employees were instructed to disregard the procedures. As a result, an employee was pulled into the rollers and seriously injured."
According to Santiago, the Durango-Georgia Paper Co. recently acquired the former Gilman Paper mill but production and operations managers had not changed.
A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSHA Act and regulations.
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, "Heavy costs in human suffering as well as financial resources can be avoided when employers work with employees to create and maintain a safe workplace."
Durango-Georgia Paper, a subsidiary of Mexico-based Corporation Durango, has approximately 3000 employees, with about 1200 at this site. The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The inspection was conducted by OSHA's area office located at 450 Mall Boulevard, Suite J, Savannah, Ga., 31406; telephone: (912) 652-4393.
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