September 05, 2023
An Ohio-based vinyl tile manufacturer with a history of failing to protect workers from hazards at its Fostoria plant dating back to 2017, now faces an additional $545,853 in federal penalties after investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an inspection at NOX US LLC, following a report of a finger amputation in February 2023. Investigators learned a 56-year-old machine operator suffered the injury when their gloved finger became caught in a chain and sprocket system that didn’t have required safety guards in place.
After the March inspection and a required follow-up in May 2023 stemming from a prior inspection, OSHA cited the company for three willful violations, two repeat violation, three serious and two other-than-serious violations for exposing workers to machine hazards by failing to employ adequate lockout and tagout procedures, train workers properly and guard machinery as required by law.
OSHA cited the company for similar violations in October 2022 and proposed $1.2 million in penalties, a finding currently being contested by NOX US. Fourteen workers at the plant have suffered injuries, including numerous cases of severe amputations since 2017, the same year OSHA added the Fostoria plant to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
With the March and May inspections still in process, OSHA opened another inspection at the facility on July 20, 2023, after receiving a report that a worker had suffered chemical burns.
“Despite repeated citations and penalties, the company continues to expose employees to dangerous hazards and allows them to operate unguarded machines,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago. “NOX US is failing to meet their legal responsibility to provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment, and they must change the way it operates before another employee is needlessly injured.”
Based in Seoul, South Korea, NOX Corp. opened the Fostoria plant in November 2015. The company manufactures vinyl flooring for customers in more than 50 countries. The plant has about 200 employees.
OSHA’s machine guarding and control of hazardous energy webpages provide information on what employers must do to limit worker exposures to machine hazards.
EPA Fines Grocery Outlet $392,000 for Sale of “Sterilizing” Products Not Tested or Registered
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Grocery Outlet Inc. resolving claims that the company violated federal law for the sale and distribution in California of four kinds of wet wipes and a cleaning product that were not registered with EPA. The agency will not register a disinfectant or sterilizer until it is determined to be effective and not posing an unreasonable risk to consumers when used according to the label directions. Products not registered with EPA can be harmful to human health, cause adverse effects, and may not be effective against the spread of germs.
As part of the settlement, Grocery Outlet will pay a $392,000 penalty. Between October 24, 2020, and May 30, 2021, the company sold the unregistered products at its stores in Redwood City and Oakland and distributed them to independently operated Grocery Outlet stores, including in Stockton and Concord.
“Unregistered products claiming to be disinfectants or sterilizers, like the kinds sold by Grocery Outlet in California can defraud the public and threaten human health,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division Director Amy Miller. “This settlement shows EPA’s continued commitment to enforcing laws that protect consumers from potential health risks and fraudulent claims.”
The unregistered products are:
- Love of Dream Antibacterial Wipes
- Fabuloso Orange Energy Cleaner
- Miami Sterilizing Antiseptic Wipes
- Miami 75% Alcohol Wipes
- Gold Essence Multi-Purpose Antibacterial Wet Wipes
The wet wipes that Grocery Outlet sold and distributed claimed to sterilize or kill germs and bacteria on surfaces and the cleaning product claimed to be effective against bacteria such as E. coli. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or germs, including disinfectants and sterilizers, are considered pesticides and must be registered with the EPA. The term “sterilizing” is a claim attributed to pesticide products with the highest level of efficacy against microorganisms. Public health claims can only be made regarding products that have been properly tested and are registered with the EPA.
U.S. Department of Labor Sues Contractor Who Refuses To Pay Penalties for Endangering Employees
The U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit in federal court to force a Waukegan roofing contractor to pay $360,531 in penalties for repeatedly exposing employees to falls from elevations, the leading cause of fatal injuries in the construction industry.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, the action follows an Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission decision on March 6, 2023, that affirmed the citations issued by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration after its investigation found that Joshua Herion — operator of ECS Roofing Professionals Inc. — exposed employees to deadly fall hazards at two separate job sites in Illinois and Wisconsin in October 2022.
Specifically, OSHA determined the contractor did not provide employees required fall arrest systems, a safety net or guardrails as they installed siding and roofing materials atop roofs in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and at a job site in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
After OSHA issued citations and fined ECS Roofing $226,530 for the Illinois violations and $134,001 for violations in Wisconsin, the company contested the citations and penalties with the commission. Despite the commission's decision affirming the penalties in full, Herion has failed to pay the penalties which led the department's Office of the Solicitor in Chicago to file suit to recover the penalties.
"The Department of Labor has taken this action to force Joshua Herion and his company, ECS Roofing Professionals Inc., to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission order to pay more than $360,000 in penalties," said Regional Solicitor of Labor Christine Heri in Chicago. "The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with federal safety and health regulations to meet their legal obligation to protect workers on the job."
Herion's history of OSHA violations dates to 2014. Since then, OSHA has cited Herion and his companies nine times for violations related to fall protection.
"Each year, too many construction workers fall victim to the leading cause of workplace fatalities in the industry because employers fail to provide fall protection," said OSHA Region Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago. "OSHA is committed to holding employers like Herion and ECS Roofing Professionals accountable when they ignore their legal responsibility to protect employees from potentially deadly and disabling injuries."
In 2021, nearly one in five workplace deaths occurred in the construction industry. Just over one-third of construction fatalities were due to falls, slips and trips. Of these, almost all were from falls to a lower level. The construction industry accounted for 46.2 percent of all fatal falls, slips and trips in 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.
To Conform with Supreme Court Decision, EPA Amends “Waters of the United States” Rule
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) announced a final rule amending the 2023 definition of “waters of the United States” to conform with the recent Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA. The agencies are committed to following the law and implementing the Clean Water Act to deliver the essential protections that safeguard the nation’s waters from pollution and degradation. This action provides the clarity that is needed to advance these goals, while moving forward with infrastructure projects, economic opportunities, and agricultural activities.
“While I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sackett case, EPA and Army have an obligation to apply this decision alongside our state co-regulators, Tribes, and partners," said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “We’ve moved quickly to finalize amendments to the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ to provide a clear path forward that adheres to the Supreme Court’s ruling. EPA will never waver from our responsibility to ensure clean water for all. Moving forward, we will do everything we can with our existing authorities and resources to help communities, states, and Tribes protect the clean water upon which we all depend.”
“We have worked with EPA to expeditiously develop a rule to incorporate changes required as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett,” said Michael L. Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. “With this final rule, the Corps can resume issuing approved jurisdictional determinations that were paused in light of the Sackett decision. Moving forward, the Corps will continue to protect and restore the nation’s waters in support of jobs and healthy communities.
While EPA’s and Army’s 2023 rule defining “waters of the United States” was not directly before the Supreme Court, the decision in Sackett made clear that certain aspects of the 2023 rule are invalid. The amendments issued today are limited and change only parts of the 2023 rule that are invalid under the Sackett v. EPA decision. For example, today’s final rule removes the significant nexus test from consideration when identifying tributaries and other waters as federally protected.
The Supreme Court’s Decision in Sackett v. EPA, issued on May 25, 2023, created uncertainty for Clean Water Act implementation. The agencies are issuing this amendment to the 2023 rule expeditiously—three months after the Supreme Court decision—to provide clarity and a path forward consistent with the ruling. With this action, the Army Corps of Engineers will resume issuing all jurisdictional determinations. Because the sole purpose of this rule is to amend specific provisions of the 2023 Rule that are invalid under Sackett, the rule will take effect immediately.
The agencies will work with state, Tribal and local partners to safeguard waters in need of protection following the Sackett v. EPA decision and will continue to use all available tools to protect public health and provide clarity for stakeholders.
The agencies will host a public webinar on September 12, 2023 to provide updates on the definition of “waters of the United States.” For registration information, please visit EPA’s webpage for the amendments rule. The agencies also plan to host listening sessions this fall with co-regulators and stakeholders, focusing on identifying issues that may arise outside this limited rule to conform the definition of “waters of the United States” with the Sackett v. EPA decision.
EPA Penalizes Yakima for Violating Federal Rules Aimed at Preventing Accidental Chemical Releases
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that Congdon Packing Company, LLC, and D&H Properties Yakima, LLC, agreed to pay $194,302 for violations of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act.
Under the Clean Air Act, facility owners or operators handling or storing 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia are required to develop and implement a risk management plan to prevent accidental chemical releases.
In violation of this requirement, the owner and operator of the facility failed to:
- Keep safety information up to date
- Adequately address process hazard analysis recommendations
- Perform a timely process hazard analysis every five years
- Provide initial safety training for three employees
- Replace and maintain process equipment for safe operation
“Ammonia is extremely dangerous, so risk management planning can save people’s lives,” said EPA Region 10 Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Director Ed Kowalski. “By creating a solid plan and making it central to their business operations, companies can reduce the chances of a chemical release and lower risks to plant workers, first responders and the surrounding community – and minimize the risk of a hefty EPA penalty.”
Exposure to ammonia may result in chemical-type burns to skin, eyes and lungs. Accidental ammonia releases can cause injuries and death to employees, emergency response personnel and people in surrounding communities.
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