Severe Violators Case Carries $396,000 in Penalties

OSHA filed 28 citations in all against U.S. Minerals LLC of Dyer, Ind. and said violations have been found at four of its facilities.

OSHA has begun using the Severe Violators Enforcement Program it rolled out last spring. One SVEP action announced Tuesday involves $396,000 in penalties and six willful citations against the Coffeen, Ill. facility of U.S. Minerals LLC, which is based in Dyer, Ind. The company manufactures coal slag abrasives and roofing granules.

"U.S. Minerals has severely jeopardized the health and safety of its workers by exposing them to extremely high levels of hazardous dust and other dangers," said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "This is the fourth U.S. Minerals facility where very serious violations were cited in the past three months, clearly indicating these problems are widespread and systemic. This blatant disregard of workers' health and safety is not acceptable."

The agency's news release said inhaling the dust produced at the facility can cause "debilitating lung disease such as pneumoconiosis," or black lung. The release explains that SVEP "is intended to focus on recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations in one or more of the following circumstances: a fatality or catastrophe; industry operations or processes that expose workers to severe occupational hazards; employee exposure to hazards related to the potential releases of highly hazardous chemicals; and all egregious enforcement actions. For more information on SVEP, go to http://www.osha.gov/dep/svep-directive.pdf."

The six willful citations allege that the company exposed workers to levels of hazardous dust at concentrations higher than the PEL; failed to implement a written respiratory protection program or require employees to wear respirators; failed to implement engineering controls to reduce harmful dust exposures; and failed to develop and use lockout/tagout procedures. Seven repeat citations involved confined space entry rules, fall protection, training on energy procedures, and machine guarding, while 10 serious citations involved PPE, vision protection, HazCom, electrical, and training on dust that contained silica.

OSHA said it issued a $466,400 penalty to US Minerals LLC's Baldwin, Ill., facility three months ago, $110,400 in penalties last month to its Harvey, La., operation, and $273,000 in penalties last week to its Galveston, Texas, facility.

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