Container Maker Faces Big Safety Fines

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 @ 05:04 PM gHale

Ball Aerosol and Specialty Container is facing $589,000 in fines for 11 safety violations, including seven willful and three repeat, for exposing workers to machine guarding hazards at its Hubbard metal container manufacturing facility in Hubbard, OH, said Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials.

OSHA initiated an inspection of the facility on Oct. 17, 2012, after receiving a complaint saying Ball Aerosol continued to expose machine operators to unguarded hazardous machinery, even though the employer faced those citations for lack of machine guarding on the same equipment in 2009.

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OSHA’s inspection found the company knowingly permitted workers to operate the machines without proper guarding. The inspection revealed the company either never installed the guarding or ended up removing it because it slowed material positioning and production output.

“Ball Aerosol’s management made a decision to continue to expose machine operators to serious amputation hazards,” said Nick Walters, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago. “Workers should not be asked to take such risks, and OSHA will not tolerate such disregard for worker safety.”

Six willful, egregious citations went out for inadequate machine guarding over the blades of slitter machines. The citations are willful because the company certified abatement for machine guarding on much of this equipment in 2009 and had a history of machine guarding violations in the past. OSHA also found the company knowingly continued to violate agency requirements each time the machinery was in operation.

There was a seventh willful citation for lack of machine guarding over nip points and rotating parts on feed tables the company faced a citation for in 2009. Lack of machine guarding exposes operators to amputation hazards of the hands and fingers, which may enter the danger zone during machine operation. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Three repeat safety violations were for failing to provide fire extinguisher training to employees; provide machine guarding to protect operators from rotating parts, nip and pinch points in machine areas; and to guard the blades at two mechanical guillotine shears.

A repeat violation exists when an employer previously faced citations 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. The company faced these violations previously during the 2009 inspection.

One serious citation was for exposing workers to falls of approximately 10 feet while working on a platform with open sides. 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.

Because of the hazards and the violations cited, Ball Aerosol is now on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. OSHA’s SVEP focuses on employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

The company, headquartered in Broomfield, CO, produces small metal containers for use by a variety of food, beverage and chemical industries. The company employs 12,000 workers, operates 31 production plants in the U.S. and has facilities in Asia, Europe, South America and Canada. The Hubbard facility employs 57 workers and specializes in the production of three-piece welded paint and general lines cans.

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