US Labor Department's OSHA fines Northeastern Wisconsin Wood
Products more than $184,000 after follow-up inspection finds 16 violations
Company has noncompliance history with protection standards, amputation hazards
POUND, WI – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Northeastern Wisconsin Wood Products for 16 alleged health and safety, including four willful and six repeat, violations after conducting a follow-up inspection at the company's Pound facility April 25. Many are for exposing workers to amputation hazards. Proposed penalties total $184,800.
"Northeastern Wisconsin Wood Products has a history of failing to comply with OSHA standards dating back to 2006. Even after being placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program and working with the Wisconsin state consultation service, the company has yet to abate many violations cited in previous inspections," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "When employers knowingly ignore safety and health requirements, they are unduly placing their workers at risk for illnesses and injuries, and that is unacceptable."
Four willful safety violations involve a lack of machine guarding on conveyors, belts, pulleys, gears, band and trim saw blades, and woodworking machinery, as well as unguarded open-sided floors and platforms presenting a fall hazard greater than 4 feet. 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.
Three repeat health violations involve failing to implement a hearing conservation program for workers whose noise exposure exceeded 85 decibels, and develop and implement a hazard communication program to include training for workers exposed to wood dust, diesel fuel and hydraulic fluid. Additionally, the company allowed unsanitary conditions to pose serious fire and explosion hazards by letting sawdust accumulate in piles by the outer wall and on horizontal surfaces such as pipes, wall supports and ledges.
Three repeat safety violations include failing to provide potable water for drinking, periodically inspect energy control procedures and use group lockout devices. 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 July 2011.
Four serious safety violations include failing to reduce compressed air for cleaning to 30 pounds per square inch or below; cover splices, joints and free ends of conductors with an insulating device; place covers on junction boxes; and provide adequate lockout devices. 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.
Two other-than-serious safety violations have been cited for using flexible cords instead of fixed wiring and burned damage to metal conduit. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
The Pound facility manufactures parts used for wood pallets and containers. The most recent follow-up inspection was due to violations cited as a result of a January 2011 inspection after which the company was cited for 18 violations and placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which concentrates on employers that have demonstrated recalcitrance or indifference to their Occupational Safety and Health Act obligations by committing willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations. Citations from that inspection were issued in July 2011. The company contested the citations; however, the Occupational Health and Review Commission issued a default judgment, and the citations became final orders March 2, 2012.
In total, Northeastern Wisconsin Wood Products has been cited by OSHA for 55 violations as the result of six previous inspections. The company was first inspected by OSHA in 2006 and issued eight citations at that time. Other inspections have included a follow-up in 2007, which found that most of the originally cited hazards remained unabated. After the May 2010 issuance of a secretary of labor petition for summary enforcement, the company was given 30 days to abate the violations. The company requested assistance from the OSHA-funded Wisconsin State Consultation Service to abate the violations, but the service ended its work at the facility due to a lack of cooperation from the employer. Many of the originally cited violations once again were cited during the January 2011 inspection and, subsequently, in this follow-up inspection.
The current citations can be viewed at: http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/NortheasternWisconsinWoodProducts_400882_1019_12.pdf* http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/NortheasternWisconsinWoodProducts_401142-1019_12.pdf*).
Northeastern Wisconsin Wood Products has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards can call OSHA's Appleton District Office at 920-734-4521. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
Under the OSH 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.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration
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