Safety Not in Place at IL Recycling Plants

Friday, March 20, 2015 @ 02:03 PM gHale

Workers at Behr Iron & Steel facilities in Rockford, IL, and Peoria, IL, suffered exposure to dangerous amputation hazards during maintenance and while processing scrap metal because safety mechanisms were not in place, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

September inspections by OSHA resulted in fines of $366,400 for five willful and nine serious safety violations, including fall and confined space hazards.

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OSHA initiated inspections at three of Behr Iron & Steel’s facilities under the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program after similar hazards ended up discovered during an investigation into the death of a worker at the company’s recycling facility in South Beloit in March 2014.

“Behr Iron & Steel continues to fail its workers by not implementing required safety procedures at its facilities, despite repeated OSHA violations and serious injuries to workers,” said Nick Walters, regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago. “OSHA’s investigation found that safety training within the company remains inefficient and employees are exposed to amputation and other serious hazards when operating metal shredding equipment. Behr must make immediate health and safety program improvements. No worker should be subject to such conditions to earn a living.”

The company received two willful violations for exposing workers to operating parts of dangerous machinery during service and maintenance at its Rockford Yard and Quaker Road facility in Rockford. The company failed to use energy control procedures, such as powering off and affixing locking devices, to prevent unintentional operation of machinery. Behr also failed to conduct annual inspections of these procedures for effectiveness. The company had similar violations in 2014 and 2010.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Behr also allowed workers to unjam a sorting house conveyor and operate other dangerous machinery without protecting them from operating parts at its Rockford facility. This practice and confined space hazards ended up cited in the 2014 employee death in South Beloit.

Inspectors also noted workers in Rockford suffered exposure to falls and trips from unguarded floor openings and platforms of up to 10 feet in height and had to walk across a conveyor system to enter and exit workstations in the sorting house.

In total, OSHA issued nine serious violations. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

Prior to the current OSHA inspections, the company had been inspected seven times in the previous five years and cited for machine hazards at various locations in Illinois and Iowa. In addition to the March 2014 fatality in South Beloit, numerous violations were issued by Iowa OSHA to the company’s Mason City, Iowa, shredding facility after an employee’s arm became trapped and seriously injured while entering a permit-required confined space to perform cleaning operations in March 2010. After receiving a complaint, OSHA conducted an investigation and issued multiple citations in September 2010 to the company’s Peoria, Illinois, shredding facility.

Rockford-based Behr Iron & Steel is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Joseph Behr & Sons Inc., a recycling company founded in 1906. The company employs 450 employees at 14 operating facilities in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. In 2011, Behr Iron & Steel changed the advertised name of all of its operating locations to Behr Iron & Metal.

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