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Abrasives Maker Faces New OSHA Case

Monday, January 20, 2014

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One year after settling eight federal health and safety cases with a $700,000 fine, U.S. Minerals is facing new allegations at the plant that started it all.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited six safety violations at the company's facility in Baldwin, IL. Newly proposed fines total $195,470.

U.S. Minerals

With seven manufacturing locations, U.S. Minerals is one of the largest U.S. producers of coal-slag products, including Black Magnum abrasives.

U.S. Minerals, based in Dyer, IN, is one of the largest U.S. producers of coal slag products. The company produces Black Magnum coal slag and Black Diamond iron silicate abrasives, roofing granules, and fill.

Repeat, Willful Violations

Two of the new violations are classified as willful, OSHA's highest level of infraction. A willful violation is "one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for, or plain indifference to, employee safety and health," according to the agency.

Three of the violations are classified as repeat; the sixth, as serious.

U.S. Minerals declined Friday (Jan. 17) to comment. It has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and defended its health and safety record. None of the current allegations or past violations relate directly to an accident or injury.

4 Plants, 8 Cases

The new citations follow a July 2013 inspection at U.S. Minerals' Baldwin facility, where the company's troubles with OSHA began with an inspection in June 2010.

BlackMagnum Roof Shingles (left); U.S. Minerals (right)

U.S. Minerals produces coal-slag and iron silicate abrasives, granules and products for a range of applications.

After that visit, the agency issued 35 health and safety citations and $466,400 in fines against the company for "willfully exposing workers to dangerously high levels of hazardous dust and failing to provide adequate breathing protection" at the plant, OSHA said Friday.

OSHA deemed the Baldwin operation “antiquated and poorly maintained.”

The results of the Baldwin inspections (three in all) led OSHA to inspect the company's three other facilities in Coffee, IL; Harvey, LA; and Galveston, TX.

(U.S. Minerals has since opened three additional plants in Anaconda, MT; Roberts, WI; and La Cygne, KS.)

SVEP and Settlement

By the end of 2010, U.S. Minerals was facing 141 alleged violations and more than $1.5 million in fines. In December 2010, the company was placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates follow-up inspections for employers with a history of safety violations.

OSHA blasting safety

Abrasive blast media exposures and operations are subject to variety of federal health and safety regulations.

The company contested the cases vigorously through the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

In August 2012, U.S. Minerals signed a two-year, 27-page Settlement Agreement with the Review Commission that upheld all of the willful and repeat violations but reduced the fine to $700,000, which U.S. Minerals and paid in full.

The settlement agreement stipulated a lengthy list of conditions for the company, including the hiring of an OSHA-approved full-time safety manager with extensive authority. U.S. Minerals complied with all of the terms and remediated all of the violations, an OSHA spokesman said at the time.

New Allegations

The current citations against U.S. Minerals allege a variety of hazards.

US Minerals
U.S. Minerals

U.S. Minerals is operating under a stringent two-year settlement agreement signed in August 2012. The new allegations follow a July 2013 inspection.

Two willful violations allege failure to:

  • Have guards on railings, exposing workers to fall hazards of up to 40 feet; and
  • Ensure proper lockout/tagout procedures on equipment being serviced and maintained.

Three repeat violations allege failure to:

  • Develop, document and use procedures for servicing equipment where more than one employee was performing tasks;
  • Inspect energy control procedures annually; and
  • Ensure that each employee appropriately affixed a lockout device before equipment service and maintenance.

One serious citation accuses the company of failing to provide personal protective equipment to employees working atop equipment. A serious violation reflects a hazard that risks life or severe injury.

U.S. Minerals has 15 days from receipt of the citations to comply or contest them.


Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Coal slag; Fall protection; Health and safety; OSHA; U.S. Minerals

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