U.S. Minerals LLC has been hit with a sixth wave of federal health and safety citations—including a third round at one plant—leaving the embattled abrasives maker with seven new citations and an additional $83,000 in proposed fines.
In all, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued more than 140 citations and nearly $1.5 million in proposed penalties since August 2010 against U.S. Minerals for operations at its four plants.
The company, based in Dyer, IN, was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program in December 2010.
U.S. Minerals has vigorously contested all of the citations and penalties.
“Our entire case is scheduled for a mediation with OSHA in June, and we are looking forward to that opportunity to have a meaningful dialogue and to try to resolve this matter amicably,” said company vice president Jason Vukas. “We continue to stand behind our safety record at Baldwin and all of our facilities.”
The newest citations, released Tuesday (Feb. 22), involve allegations at the company’s “wet plant” operation in Baldwin, IL. OSHA already issued nine citations and a proposed $158,200 fine against the facility in August and 35 citations and a $466,400 proposed fine in September. The three sets of citations stem from two different inspections. OSHA has called the Baldwin plant “antiquated and poorly maintained.”
The current citations comprise:
• One willful citation, with a proposed penalty of $56,000, for allegedly failing to develop and document procedures to control potentially hazardous energy.
OSHA requires employers to establish a program of energy control procedures, training and periodic inspections to ensure that machinery and equipment are isolated from their energy sources before an employee performs servicing or maintenance.
• Three repeat citations, with proposed fines of $18,000, alleging failure to have guardrails on an open-sided platform 17 feet high, failure to install guarding on a material dump hopper, and failure to provide and use lockout/tagout hardware devices for securing or blocking machines from energy sources. The violation regarding the open-sided platform was corrected during inspection, OSHA said.
• Three serious citations, with proposed penalties totaling $9,000, alleging lack of inspection and maintenance documentation for a Caterpillar 980G Loader, use of an unguarded conveyer tail pulley, and failure to have authorized employees affix lockout/tagout equipment to energy isolation devices.
A willful violation is issued for either intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health. A repeat citation reflects a previous citation for the same or a similar violation. A serious citation reflects “substantial probability” that death or serious harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
“U.S. Minerals’ failure to develop and implement plans to control hazardous energy and prevent injuries to workers is simply unacceptable,” said Thomas Bielema, OSHA’s area director in Peoria.
“U.S. Minerals repeatedly has been cited at this facility and others for failing to follow OSHA safety and health standards to protect workers. OSHA is committed to ensuring employers abide by the law, which requires common-sense safety practices.”
The results of the Baldwin facility inspections last summer prompted OSHA to initiate inspections of the company’s three other facilities. Those inspections resulted in:
• 28 health and safety citations and $396,000 in proposed penalties for alleged violations at U.S. Minerals’ facility in Coffeen, IL;
• 38 citations and $273,000 in proposed penalties issued Dec. 2 in connection with U.S. Minerals’ facility in Galveston, TX; and
• 30 citations and proposed fines totaling $110,400 issued in November against a plant in Harvey, LA.
The Severe Violator Enforcement Program focuses on employers with a history of safety violations. This program includes mandatory OSHA follow-up inspections and inspections of other worksites of the same employer.
U.S. Minerals has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.