Bypassing Safety Interlocks Leads to $116,000 in OSHA Fines

February 21, 2005

Smiths Aerospace Components faces $116,000 in OSHA fines for safety and health hazards at its plant in Manchester, CT. The airplane components manufacturer was cited for 23 alleged repeat and serious safety and health violations following inspections begun Aug. 15, 2004, under OSHA's site specific targeting program which focuses on workplaces with higher than average lost workday injuries.

"Strong enforcement is a key part of OSHA's efforts to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's regional administrator in Boston. "The significant penalty of $116,000 in this case demonstrates our commitment to protecting the health and safety of America's workers."

OSHA's inspections identified instances where safety interlocks were bypassed on mechanical power presses, exposing employees to being caught in the presses' moving parts; improper dispensing of flammable liquids; unauthorized modification of forklift trucks; unanchored and uninspected machinery; ungrounded electrical equipment and outlets; inadequate cleaning and storage of respirators; lack of personal protective equipment; unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals; excess air pressure in a cleaning hose; and deficiencies in the plant's hearing conservation, bloodborne pathogen and hazardous energy control programs.

Since OSHA had cited the plant for similar hazards in 2004, these citations were classified as repeat violations and carry $98,500 in proposed fines. OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer has previously been cited for substantially similar hazards and those citations have become final.

Additional hazards found during the inspection included failure to dispose of combustible material daily; unauthorized electrical equipment in a paint spray area; unsecured compressed gas cylinders; misused electrical equipment, and several additional instances of unguarded machinery. These conditions resulted in the issuance of nine serious citations, with $17,500 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a serious violation as a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

OSHA Plans to Withdraw Direct Final Rule for National Consensus Standards

OSHA will be withdrawing its direct final rule for updating OSHA standards that are based on national consensus standards and industry standards. 

On Nov. 24, 2004 OSHA announced the agency is engaging in an overall effort to update OSHA standards that reference or include language taken directly from outdated consensus standards. This included a proposed direct final rule to revoke references to outdated industry and consensus standards.

As part of the direct final rule approach, OSHA also published a proposed rule in the same Federal Register notice. The Agency stated that if significant adverse comments were received, they would withdraw the direct final rule.

OSHA has determined that a comment received will be treated as a significant adverse comment. The agency will address comments on the direct final and proposed rules in a new final rule, which the agency expects to issue shortly. OSHA will not institute a second comment period.

OSHAÆs New Safety Card Highlights Safe Trenching Practices

. The card outlines required criteria for excavation or trench walls, as well as specific requirements for protective systems. The card is printed in English and Spanish.

Latest National Alliances Focus on Fire, Ergonomic and Severe Weather Hazards

OSHA established two new national Alliances Feb. 9. The National Association of Institutional Linen Management  joined OSHA to focus efforts on reducing and preventing exposure to fire and ergonomic-related hazards, as well as emphasizing hazardous material and motor vehicle safety. Advancing safety and health for workers in airport operating areas is the impetus behind OSHA's Alliance with the National Air Transportation Association's Airline Services Council . The agreement will highlight worker exposures to inclement/severe weather hazards in and around airport car go and mail ramp areas, and other areas associated with aircraft maintenance operations.

Vulcan Chemicals Achieves OSHA Recognition

Vulcan Chemicals has earned membership in OSHAÆs "Star" Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). A recognition ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 23.

"Vulcan Chemicals has exhibited excellence in effective safety and health management," said Kansas City OSHA Regional Administrator Charles E. Adkins, CIH. "The company's outstanding efforts at the Wichita facility have included an impressive management commitment, employee involvement, and safety and health training."

The facility employs 334 workers who manufacture and distribute chlorine, sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid, sodium chlorine, and other chlorinated organic chemicals.

OSHA's VPP programs recognize and promote effective workplace safety and health management. Companies in the programs achieve average injury rates 50 percent lower than others in their industry. From coast to coast, approximately 1,100 work sites representing more than 200 industries participate in the programs.

Blocked Exits Lead to $144,700 Penalty

Safety hazards at 11 Bronx Rite Aid stores have resulted in Rite-Aid of New York Inc. being fined a total of $144,700. Hazards included locked or blocked emergency exits, obstructed exit routes, missing exit signs and inadequate fire extinguisher training.

"Strong enforcement is a key part of this Administration's efforts to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "The significant penalty of $144,700 in this case demonstrates our commitment to protecting the health and safety of American workers."

The citations and fines are the result of OSHA inspections of Rite-Aid stores in the Bronx between August 2004 and January 2005. The inspection of the 2138 White Plains Rd. store was in response to an employee complaint about a locked exit. The other 10 inspections were conducted to monitor the company's compliance with an April 2004 settlement agreement in which Rite Aid paid $90,000 in fines for previous violations and promised that all exit doors at its facilities would remain unlocked during working hours.

These latest OSHA inspections found a total of nine instances of locked or blocked exits, obstructed exit access, inadequate exit route lighting or aisles too narrow to ensure swift and safe egress in an emergency. Additional fire-related safety hazards included several instances where exit route signs and other required exit signage were not posted, in addition to unmounted or blocked fire extinguishers and failure to train workers on fire extinguisher use. Other hazards included an unguarded cardboard compactor, failure to keep walking surfaces clean and unstable storage of bulk material.

Rite Aid of New York was issued one willful citation, with a $40,000 fine, for a locked emergency exit and obstructed exit access at the White Plains Rd. store. Remaining hazards at this or the other 10 stores resulted in $92,700 in fines for 12 repeat citations and $12,000 in fines for eight serious citations. A list of citations and fines by store is attached.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has been cited for a substantially similar hazard in the past and that citation has become final. A serious citation is issued when death or serious injury is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.