OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
In a major enforcement case involving overexposure of workers to potentially fatal silica dust, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today proposed $407,000 in fines against Gunite Corp. for alleged safety and health violations at its Rockford, Ill., foundry.
"It is vital to keep workers from getting silicosis, a disabling, sometimes fatal disease caused by silica dust overexposure. Gunite Corp's failure to protect its employees from this deadly hazard warrants the stiffest possible penalties," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman.
OSHA cited the gray iron foundry, which manufactures wheels and brake drums for semi-tractor trailers, as the result of an inspection conducted under a program that targets high-hazard workplaces. Gunite Corp. is a subsidiary of Truck Components, Inc., and employs about 300 workers represented by United Auto Workers Local 718 at the Rockford foundry.
OSHA cited Gunite Corp. for two alleged willful violations, with penalties of $70,000 each, that involved exposing several workrs in two classifications to high levels of silica and failure to establish engineering or administrative controls to protect workers in areas with silica dust exposures.
"The $140,000 penalty for silica violations is the largest we've ever issued," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Charles N. Jeffress. "We are focusing on reducing silica exposures as part of OSHA's strategic plan for lowering injuries and illnesses during the next five years."
Jeffress added that company records showed significant overexposures to crystalline silica for years and that there were three workers suffering from silicosis and another 50 who have abnormal chest x-ray and pulmonary function test results.
The agency also cited the firm for three alleged willful violations, with penalties of $55,000 each, for not providing annual audiograms as required by a hearing conservation program, for not inspecting use of respirators, and for not providing proper housekeeping in a basement work area. Penalties for all of the alleged willful safety and health violations totaled $305,000.
Nine serious citations for alleged health violations, with penalties totaling $41,500, were issued for lack of proper lighting, failure to implement a silica medical monitoring protocol and a proper tuberculosis testing procedure, lack of floor hole covers, failure to store respirators properly, overexposures to silica and carbon monoxide, lack of proper housekeeping, and operating forklift trucks in conditions with inadequate lighting.
The agency also cited 23 alleged serious safety violations, with penalties totaling $60,500, involving such matters as forklift truck and crane deficiencies, wet floors creating slipping hazards, missing hand rails, improper personal protective equipment (PPE), an inadequate confined space program, inadequate lockout/tagout procedures, unsafe loads, unguarded machines, and unguarded belts.
A willful violation is defined as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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