Fabric Plant Feeling OSHA Heat

Friday, July 18, 2014 @ 02:07 PM gHale

After providing false documentation and saying they fixed previously cited hydraulic press hazards, Formed Fiber Technologies LLC is facing $816,500 in fines for 14 safety citations, including willful and repeat citations, as well as a notice of failure to abate, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA initiated the inspection as a follow-up inspection pursuant to its Severe Violators Enforcement Program. The company, based in Auburn, ME, manufactures nonwoven fabrics and polyester staple fibers for the automotive industry. It employs 750 workers corporate wide, with 340 at its Sidney, OH, facility. Formed Fiber Technologies also operates Color-Fi Inc. in Sumter, SC.

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The Sidney, OH, plant, which produces motor vehicle interior trimmings for automotive manufacturers, including Toyota and General Motors, received one failure to abate, nine willful and four repeat safety violations for continuously exposing employees to amputations and other hazards.

“Formed Fiber Technologies apparently decided that production was more important than ensuring its workers’ safety. They provided false abatement documentation to OSHA. They knew how hazardous these machines were without proper safeguards and also knew exactly how to fix those hazards,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA will not tolerate such blatant disregard for worker safety.”

OSHA’s January follow-up inspection found that abatement documentation Formed Fiber provided to OSHA in December 2013 was false and employees suffered exposure to unguarded machines and unsafe maintenance procedures well after the employer’s abatement claims. Failing to protect workers from dangerous machinery is among the most frequently cited OSHA violations and injuries involving this type of machinery often result in death or permanent disability.

Nine willful citations were for failing to prevent the start up of multiple hydraulic thermoforming presses, laminator machines and robot cells while workers were performing set-up, service and maintenance inside the machines. The company also failed to develop proper lockout/tag out procedures and encouraged workers to use unsafe methods to stop machines for maintenance. 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.

Four repeat violations cited also involve failing to train workers on how to properly stop machines before service and maintenance, which continuously exposed machine operators to laceration, amputation, burns and having parts of the machine strike or crush them. The company failed to have identifying information on devices to indicate hazards.

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 facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

OSHA previously cited Formed Fiber Technologies in October 2013 for 11 violations, many involving the same standards. The company entered into a settlement agreement that included terms involving the abatement of hazards and paying a penalty of $69,000. Prior to October 2013, OSHA inspected the company 16 times at their facilities nationwide, resulting in 80 violations.

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