Chicago Co. Faces Severe Violator Fines

Monday, August 6, 2012 @ 06:08 PM gHale

Specialty metal forgings producer A. Finkl & Sons Co. is facing $352,700 in fines for 26 safety violations at the company’s 398-employee Chicago facility, including two willful violations involving failing to provide fall protection around open pits and rectifying multiple hazards found in crane inspections.

OSHA initiated an inspection in February after receiving a complaint saying cranes used in the facility were in disrepair, including having malfunctioning hoisting brakes, and untrained workers were operating industrial trucks.

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The willful violations are failing to ensure open pits are guarded by standard railings and/or covers to protect employees from falling in, and failing to correct deficiencies identified by crane inspections such as missing bolts, inoperable radio controls, and problems with bridges, trolleys and main hoist brakes. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Twenty-two serious violations involve failing to install hoist guards on industrial cranes, ensure independent hoisting units on all cranes that handle hot metal have at least two holding brakes, ensure all crane trolleys and bridges have brakes with ample thermal capacity for the equipment’s frequency of operation and which prevent the impairment of functions due to overheating, ensure a thorough inspection of all crane ropes occurs, ensure loads ended up lifted in a manner to prevent swinging on cranes and have a responsible person on-site with knowledge of cranes.

Other violations include failing to ensure ladders are in a manner that provides secure footing for workers, store liquefied petroleum gas containers away from stairways or other exit areas, adequately outline the rules for lockout/tagout procedures, guard live electrical parts over 50 volts, protect electrical conductors entering boxes from abrasion, and visually inspect portable plug- and cord-connected equipment for defects. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

One repeat violation involves failing to ensure powered industrial trucks undergo examination prior to going into service as well as keep the trucks in a clean condition, free from lint, excess oil and grease. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously faced a citation for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. A similar violation occurred in 2006 at the same facility.

One other-than-serious violation is failing to create, certify and post the OSHA 300A summary log of injuries and illnesses or an equivalent form for the year 2011 by Feb. 1, 2012. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

“A. Finkl & Sons Co. has demonstrated a blatant disregard for the safety of its employees. When employers fail in their responsibility to provide a safe workplace, OSHA will take all necessary action to protect workers on the job,” said Nick Walters, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago.

Due to the nature of the hazards, OSHA placed A. Finkl & Sons Co. in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.

OSHA previously inspected the company 24 times since 1970, with 17 inspections resulting in citations for various violations. The two most recent previous inspections, in 2006 and 2007, resulted in citations for willful and repeat violations related to fire and fall hazards.

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