Food Coatings Manufacturer Challenges OSHA's Fines

Mantrose-Haeuser Co. Inc., an Attleboro, Mass., manufacturer of industrial and pharmaceutical food coatings, is challenging $192,000 in proposed fines from OSHA, which cited the company recently for a total of 29 alleged repeat, willful, and serious violations of safety and health standards. The agency investigated the company's plant following a July 17, 2007, incident in which an employee lost his hand when it became caught in an unguarded rotating valve of a dust collection hopper. Because the plant was cited for a similar hazard in April 2005, OSHA issued a repeat citation with a proposed fine of $35,000. Two other repeat citations, carrying $25,000 in fines, were issued for allegedly unguarded work platforms and an emergency exit door that could not be opened. OSHA said its inspection also found that the plant had not developed and implemented required procedures to shut down machines and lock out their power sources to prevent their unintended startup. This situation resulted in the issuance of one willful citation carrying a proposed fine of $70,000.

Mantrose-Haeuser's plant manager, Brian Terando, said Jan. 24 that the company intends to challenge several of the proposed penalties and citations and has requested an informal settlement conference with OSHA, as allowed by law. The company has the option of appealing to OSHRC.

"The safety and well-being of our employees is, and has been our top priority, and we are committed to doing whatever we can to prevent accident or injury," Terando said, according to the company's news release. "We have been meeting and fully cooperating with OSHA throughout its review of our operations. However, we respectfully disagree with the nature of some of its findings. There is no basis on which to characterize any actions as either 'willfull' or 'repeat.'

"The company took immediate corrective actions following the accident to improve the safety of the dust-collection process, including installing additional protection, implementing new operational procedures and updating our training programs," Terando continued. "We continuously evaluate our operations to identify and implement practices to improve employee health and safety throughout the plant."  

OSHA said it issued 25 serious citations, with $62,000 in fines, in this case for alleged hazards involving blocked, obstructed, and unmarked emergency exit doors and routes; lack of lockout/tagout devices and training; trip and fall hazards; fire extinguishers not being readily available; deficiencies in respirator training and fitting; confined space hazards; a defective powered pallet jack; unlabeled containers of chemicals; unapproved containers for flammable liquid; and lack of written procedures, training and other elements of the plant's process safety management program. "The number of citations reflects the wide array of hazards found during our inspection as well as the employer's knowledge of the lockout hazard and the recurrence of conditions cited during an earlier OSHA inspection," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director in Braintree, Mass. "As demonstrated in this case, continued failure to adhere to safety and health standards exposes employees to serious injuries and potentially fatal fire, chemical, mechanical, fall, confined space and machine guarding hazards."

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