Flooring Maker Hides Machines, Faces Fines

Friday, September 4, 2015 @ 05:09 PM gHale

A Norfolk, NE, flooring materials company tried to hide hazardous machines from federal inspectors and threatened to fire employees who complained about unsafe working conditions during an investigation into why a 65-year-old temporary worker suffered the amputation of one finger and severe damage to another when his left hand was caught as he operated a machine, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA inspectors found the man’s employer, MP Global Products LLC, attempted to conceal an entire production line from them.

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Inspectors found numerous machines lacked safety guards that exposed workers to amputation injuries on that line and throughout the facility. Workers also told investigators the company threatened to fire those who told inspectors about their safety concerns.

OSHA cited MP Global for two willful, 22 serious and one other-than-serious safety violations carrying proposed penalties of $244,000. In addition, the agency placed the company in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program after the inspection of the March 1 injury.

“MP Global shut down an entire production line, turned the lights off and herded employees into the back room where they were instructed to remain quiet during OSHA’s inspection. This was a willful attempt to prevent inspectors from discovering numerous machine safety violations in the plant,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “Knowingly requiring workers to operate unsafe machinery and threatening their jobs for reporting unsafe work practices are illegal and shameful activities. MP Global needs to immediately correct the multiple machine hazards in its facility.”

OSHA inspectors found the company failed to train workers on machine safety procedures and vehicle operation. They also found blocked aisles, inadequate emergency exit signs, defective powered industrial trucks in operation and numerous electrical safety hazards, including damaged electrical boxes and exposed electrical wires.

MP Global manufactures underlayment products from recycled materials for use beneath laminate, tile and hardwood flooring. These products end up sold nationally by distributors such as: Home Depot, Lumber Liquidators, Menards, Wayfair and Build Direct.