An Oxford, Oh. electric company faces $119k in health and safety penalties.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issued 11 serious violations, citing that the company exposed employees to dangerous confined spaces, machine hazards, and more. The investigation occurred in response to January 2021 complaint filed from a production facility in Oxford.
Inspectors discovered that machine operators and maintenance employees entered confined, powder-coating ovens routinely without testing atmospheric conditions or securing natural gas lines and operating machine parts. Failing to do so exposed workers to dangerous asphyxiation hazards and the potential for serious injuries or death.
Confined Space Hazards
According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 1,030 confined space-related worker deaths between 2011-2018.
Gases and vapors can easily overcome workers in a confined space, and a lack of oxygen may suffocate them when proper safety protocols are not followed.
“Confined spaces often expose workers to atmospheric and mechanical hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery in Cincinnati. “OSHA has specific regulations for implementing required training and safety procedures to protect workers who must enter confined spaces, including atmospheric testing and ensuring equipment and energy sources are disabled before workers enter these spaces.”
The proposed penalties added up as OSHA determined that the company exposed workers to multiple safety and health hazards by failing to designate the ovens as permit-required confined spaces, which would require specific safety procedures before entry. The employer also failed to perform lockout/tagout procedures, which means failing to isolate natural gas lines and mechanical energy to the ovens during maintenance.
In all, the 11 serious violations of health and safety standards added up to proposed penalties totaling $119,757.
OSHA also found that the company failed to:
- Implement an adequate respiratory protection program for employees that were required to wear respirators while working with dust collectors; This includes failure to perform fit testing and medical surveillance
- Train employees on the hazards of powder coat that were used on products
- Clean surfaces where epoxy powder coat accumulated, thus exposing workers to methyl imidazole, which is an eye, skin, and lung irritant
- Provide fall protection for employees working on top of the ovens with fall hazards of up to 20 feet
- Train employees on required safety procedures and safety and health hazards in the facility
The company, which employs more than 150,000 in the U.S., including 250 at the Oxford facility, has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
If you’ve been fined by OSHA, here are the next steps you’ll need to take.
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