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New OSHA Case Pushes U.S. Minerals Fine to $1M+

Monday, December 6, 2010

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has slapped abrasives maker U.S. Minerals with its fourth series of citations since August, leaving the company facing more than 100 citations and more than $1 million in proposed penalties overall.

On Thursday (Dec. 2), OSHA issued 38 citations and proposed penalties totaling $273,000 in connection with U.S. Minerals’ facility in Galveston, TX.

The manufacturer, based in Dyer, IN, has been a target of OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program, which focuses on what OSHA calls “recalcitrant” employers. The company has about 60 employees.

“We disagree with OSHA's findings, and we are disappointed that this has escalated to such a large penalty number,” U.S. Minerals vice president Jason Vukas said Monday (Dec. 6).

Inspections, Citations

In November OSHA announced 30 citations and proposed fines totaling $110,400 in connection with U.S. Minerals’ plant in Harvey, LA.

In September, OSHA proposed a $466,400 fine and issued 35 citations related to U.S. Minerals’ plant in Baldwin, IL, calling it an “antiquated and poorly maintained facility.” In August, the agency issued nine citations and proposed $158,200 in fines relating to fall protection and other issues at the same facility.

U.S. Minerals has called the Baldwin allegations “incomplete, overstated, and/or inaccurate.”

And there still may be more. OSHA still has not announced the results of an inspection of the company’s facility in Coffeen, IL.

Meanwhile, the company is in the process of contesting all of the allegations, fines and proposed penalties, Vukas said. The company expects to participate in mediation with OSHA sometime in the coming months, “and we are looking forward to that opportunity to have a meaningful dialogue and to try to resolve this matter amicably,” Vukas said.

Texas Allegations

In Galveston, U.S. Minerals is accused of three willful and 35 serious violations.

“This company jeopardized the safety of its employees by not providing the proper fall protection and machine guarding,” said OSHA area director Mark Briggs. “Employers' disregard for worker safety will not be tolerated.”

The willful violations are for allegedly failing to provide:

• Fall protection for open-sided platforms;

• Conveyors equipped with emergency stops or pull cords; and

• Adequate fall protection for the bulk load out area.

Serious violations include allegations of failure to:

• Provide covers on chute floors;

• Remove damaged portable metal ladders from service;

• Ensure compressed gas cylinders were properly secured;

• Provide fire extinguishers where combustible and flammable materials were stored; and

• Develop and document machine specific lockout/tagout procedures for equipment.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the citations and penalties.

OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP) began in the spring. It focuses on employers who commit willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations in one or more of the following circumstances: a fatality or catastrophe; industry operations or processes that expose workers to severe occupational hazards; employee exposure to hazards related to the potential releases of highly hazardous chemicals; and all egregious enforcement actions.


Tagged categories: Abrasives; Fall protection; Health and safety; OSHA

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