OSHA Hammers Ohio Auto Parts Manufacturer in Guarding Case

The agency has penalized Sunfield Inc., an auto parts manufacturer based in Hebron, Ohio, a total of $3,426,900 and cited it for 46 egregious willful, two willful, one repeated, and eight serious safety violations.

OSHA announced it has penalized Sunfield Inc., an auto parts manufacturer based in Hebron, Ohio, a total of $3,426,900 and cited it for 46 egregious willful, two willful, one repeated, and eight serious safety violations. The fines for the company's alleged failure to disconnect machinery from a power supply, prevent machine movement before maintenance and service, and train workers in how to operate machine presses safely and to service and maintain them, are one of the largest OSHA penalties has ever filed against a company in the automotive parts industry, according to the agency.

Hebron is near Columbus, Ohio.

According to the agency, federal investigators inspected the Hebron plant after two workers suffered severe injuries in January and February 2016. "The facility has an extensive history of federal safety violations dating back 20 years. The company, which investigators found to have a high rate of employee turnover, supplies parts for several major Japanese and domestic automakers," according to OSHA, which also has placed Sunfield in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

"When companies prioritize production and profit over the health and safety of their workforce, too often it is the workers that pay the price," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "OSHA's investigation found the company's leadership failed in its obligation to properly train workers for the jobs they were hired to do and created a culture that routinely tolerated willful and serious safety violations."

OSHA reported the two recent injuries were:

  • Jan. 6, 2016, when a 22-year-old temporary worker employed by the staffing agency Employers Overload suffered multiple lacerations and a fractured right elbow as he removed scrap from a blanking press. Operating machine parts caught his arm because safety light curtains were not operating correctly, and the investigators concluded that a supervisor had identified the safety issue two hours prior to the injury but had not placed the equipment out of service.
  • Feb. 18, 2016, when a 58-year-old full-time Sunfield employee had to undergo surgical amputation of his right arm above the elbow after his arm was crushed as he removed scrap on a robotic press line. Investigators found the machine's danger zone did not have adequate safe guards to prevent employees from coming in contact with operating machine parts.

    And since 1997, 16 of 20 inspections conducted at the company found multiple violations; OSHA has issued 118 citations that have addressed machine hazards similar to those cited this time; they resulted in 90 serious, eight willful, and five repeated violations to the company. "Sunfield made and broke countless promises to improve safety conditions and eliminate serious hazards on the factory floor. The company also ignored its own corporate safety manuals and its safety manager's warnings that workers lacked the training to protect themselves. And still, the company risked the safety and well-being of its employees as they operated dangerous and powerful industrial machines," said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "Sunfield has shown a total disregard for its workers, the kind rarely seen since the darkest days of the past when callous industrialists ruled and put profits before human suffering and common decency. This has to stop. We hope that today’s action brings an end to these conditions and convinces this employer that their behavior is intolerable."

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