Makers of Landscaping Paraphernalia Charged with 142 Violations

OSHA is proposing $576,750 in penalties against Sims Bark Co. and Sims Stone Co. for 142 workplace safety and health violations. The companies make landscaping products such as mulch, retainer wall and patio stones, and concrete borders and edgers. The agency is proposing 20 violations and $94,400 in penalties for the company's bark plant in Brent, Ala.; 59 violations and $260,900 in penalties for the bark and stone plants in Tuscumbia, Ala.; 49 violations and $142,350 in penalties for the bark and stone plants in Woodbury, Ga.; and 14 violations and $79,100 in penalties for the Olive Branch, Miss., bark plant. Inspections began after OSHA received a complaint and determined that similar hazards might exist at other locations of the two companies.

Willful citations are being issued against the Brent, Tuscumbia, and Olive Branch bark plants and the Tuscumbia stone plant for allowing workers to service, unjam, and clean machinery without procedures to ensure that workers won't be caught in or struck by equipment or burned by machines' heat strips. In addition, Tuscumbia bark plant employees worked without needed fall protection, and at the Woodbury bark plant, workers who operated a machine with an unenclosed belt were exposed to dangers associated with being caught in the fast-moving machinery, the agency said. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

Serious citations are being issued against all of the plants, including the Woodbury stone plant. Identified hazards involve lack of employee training, exposure to electric shocks, lack of fall protection, lack of machine guards, exposure to noise hazards, struck-by dangers, and accumulations of combustible dust. The agency is issuing other-than-serious violations against all of the locations for failing to keep workplace injury logs according to OSHA rules.

"Sims Bark and Sims Stone management have displayed a systemic indifference to the safety and health of their own employees, resulting in a dangerous work environment," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta.

The sites were inspected by staff from OSHA's Birmingham, Ala., Jackson, Miss., and Atlanta-West Area Offices. The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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