Twenty more companies succeeded over the past week in hiding federal OSHA enforcement actions from the withering public scrutiny that press releases have traditionally provided. Since last January 18, OSHA has issued only one enforcement-related press release.
As usual, for a few we have been able to get some details that might have been useful for the public to know.
The big winner this week is Exide Technologies, one of the world’s largest producers of batteries. On March 31, OSHA issued one serious and three repeat citations, totaling $149,000 for violations of OSHA’s lead standard. But this was not Exide’s first infraction — or its second or third. Way back last year, when OSHA was still issuing press releases, Exide was fined over $127,000 for a variety of violations,, including a partial finger amputation and electrical hazards.The press release stated:
On April 26,2016 the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued one willful, and 10 serious safety and health violations to Exide Technologies based on the Oct. 27 complaint and Dec. 3, 2015, injury inspections. OSHA found workers exposed to electrical and machine hazards. The agency also issued a hazard alert letter* to the plant for failing to implement a heat-stress program. OSHA proposed total penalties of $127,300.
“Exide Technologies is exposing workers to dangerous electrical and machine hazards that can cause devastating and life-changing injuries like the one this worker suffered,” said Judy Freeman, OSHA’s area director in Wichita. “While working as a strip caster, this man joined 65 other Kansas workers who, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports suffered preventable, workplace amputation injuries in 2015. Exide needs to clean up its act and take immediate action to fix these hazards.”
Exide had also received a $23,000 citation in 2015 for a variety of confined space violations, and in 2013 $82,000 for two repeat violations of the lead standard, violations of the cadmium and arsenic standards, and safety violations regarding electrical and lockout-tagout hazards.
And in 2011, OSHA cited Exon $77,000 for one serious and one repeat violation of the lead standard at the company’s battery recycling facility in Frisco, Texas. OSHA also issued a press release for those violations.
The quote is a bit understated considering the serious damage that overexposure to lead can cause, but even the Bush administration issued a press release in 2008 revealing Exide’s problems with keeping workers safe.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Exide Technologies Inc. with 22 serious, two repeat and one other-than-serious violations of OSHA standards and has proposed penalties totaling $71,000 for allegedly failing to protect employees from exposure to lead and cadmium.
“It’s important for employers to properly monitor their employees’ exposure to hazardous substances such as lead and cadmium,” said Paul Hansen, OSHA’s area director in Little Rock, Ark. “The effects of exposure to substances such as these can cause both short- and long-term consequences.”
Exide citations go back decades. In 2004 an Exide employee died after falling from a ladder into a pool of sulfuric acid in Pennsylvania and the company received $14,000 fine for that fatality. As far back as 1988, Exide received $400,000 in fines for exposing its employees to unsafe levels of lead while breaking an agreement with the government.
According to OSHA, chronic exposure to lead “is associated with impaired kidney function, high blood pressure, nervous system and neurobehavioral effects, cognitive dysfunction later in life, and subtle cognitive effects attributed to prenatal exposure. Pregnant women need to be especially concerned … since [lead exposure] can have serious impact on the developing fetus.”
Exide’s website states that:
The health and the safety of our employees is of paramount importance to us. Our commitment is to develop safe and health-promoting workplaces. There’s simply no compromise here. In return, our healthy employees are committed to quality and productivity. It is a win-win-situation.
They also offer a look at their EHS policy, but when you click on it, you get a notice stating “Page Not Found.” Which says it all, I guess.
New Homes Construction
Focusing further on the theme of not understanding the concept of workplace safety rules — or of cleaning up your act once you’ve been caught — New Jersey’s New Home Construction Inc. received two repeat citations and fines of $84,853 for not providing fall protection and other safety hazards. The reason they received “repeat” violations was that New Homes received a $40,000 citation in 2015 for fall protection violations. And one of those was a “repeat,” stemming from citations in 2012 for fall protection violations.
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. In 2010, OSHA re-instated fall protection requirements for residential construction that had been “temporarily” suspended in 1995.
And in state plan news, Virginia OSHA fined Broy and Son Pump Service of Berryville over $78,000 for the death of Russel Allen Polen, age 48, in a trench collapse. Polen had been buried up to his neck.