Two Texas trailer manufacturers have been slapped with nearly $1 million in federal fines for a wide variety of noise, toxic exposure and electrical violations, including many in the facilities’ finishing operations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited PJ Trailers Manufacturing Co. Inc. and Delco Trailers Co. Inc., a similar company owned by PJ Trailers, for seven willful, 26 serious, nine repeat and four other-than-serious health and safety violations.
|PJ Trailers Inc. powder coats all of its products. The finishing operation drew willful, repeat and serious OSHA citations.|
Proposed penalties total $949,800. PJ Trailers did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.
The companies share a president, management, work site, health and safety manager, and human resources division, and have interrelated and integrated operations.
Many of the new citations reflect the same hazards for which the company was cited on its last OSHA inspections. OSHA said some of the hazards had been fixed, and then later abandoned, “to accommodate production.”
At least 15 workers since 2008 have suffered eye injuries requiring medical treatment and or days away from work, OSHA said.
The high number of willful and repeat violations—which account for $760,000 of the fines—“reflect the fact that management knew workers were exposed to dangerous conditions, yet failed to provide them with basic safety protections,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.
OSHA’s Dallas Area Office inspected the facility in March in response to a complaint that employees were not protected from rotating machinery parts, were being exposed to toxic welding fumes, and were working amid excessive noise levels.
The willful violations include allegations of excessive noise in several departments, but none worse than the finishing department, where OSHA measured noise from abrasive blasters and dryers at up to 556% the permissible level.
Other willful violations included lack of fall protection; lack of control of hazardous energy; lack of safety guards on grinders; and lack of eye protection, helmets and hand protection during welding and cutting.
OSHA’s highest level of infraction, willful violations reflect “intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements” or “plain indifference to employee safety and health.”
Repeat citations allege excessive accumulations of powder coating in spray booth areas; lack of medical evaluations to determine respirator use; lack of training for machine operators; lack of machine guarding; and use of extension cords and other temporary measures rather than appropriate permanent wiring.
A repeat violation exists when an employer has been cited for the same or a similar violation within five years. OSHA issued the same powder coating citation in March 2010, and the others in the fall of 2006.
The 26 serious citations include many health and safety allegations in the finishing operation. They include:
• Storage of aerosol paint in non-fire-resistant cabinets;
• Lack of automatic sprinklers in spray booths;
• Inappropriate equipment and wiring in powder coating booths with combustible dust;
• Inadequate hand protection in the powder coating operation;
• No showers or eye-wash stations for employees working with corrosive chemicals;
• Employees not protected by loads suspended by uninspected slings (multiple departments);
• Compressed air for cleaning operated above the maximum allowable psi (multiple departments); and
• Untrained employees repairing wiring in booths without Personal Protective Equipment, without de-energizing the work area, and without insulated tools.
Additional serious citations allege:
• Unmarked aisles and passageways;
• No railings or toeboards on elevated work platforms;
• Improperly modified industrial trucks; and
• Unlabeled disconnection and overcurrent circuitry and wiring.
Serious violations reflect “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Lesser violations allege a variety of employee illness and injury recordkeeping lapses.
Established in 1991, PJ Trailers calls itself “the premier trailer manufacturer in North America.” The Sumner, TX-based company manufactures flatdecks, deckovers, tilts, dumps, carhaulers and utilities.
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference, or contest the case.