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Amputation Dangers Draw $589K Fine

Thursday, April 18, 2013

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An Ohio paint-can manufacturer that allegedly operates with unguarded machinery in order to speed up production is facing egregious federal safety violations and nearly $600,000 in fines.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Ball Aerosol and Specialty Container Inc. for 11 safety violations, the agency announced Monday (April 15). Seven violations were deemed willful, three repeat, and one serious, totaling $589,000 in proposed fines.

The company is disputing the case.

OSHA inspected the company's Hubbard, OH, metal container manufacturing facility on Oct. 17, 2012, after receiving a complaint that Ball Aerosol was exposing operators to unguarded hazardous machinery. OSHA cited the company in 2009 for machine guarding hazards on the same equipment.

Ball Aerosol
Ball Aerosol and Specialty Container

"Ball Aerosol's management made a decision to continue to expose machine operators to serious amputation hazards," an OSHA spokesman said.

The company "knowingly permitted workers to operate the machines without proper guarding," the investigation found. The guarding was not installed or was removed because it slowed material positioning and production output, OSHA said.

"Ball Aerosol's management made a decision to continue to expose machine operators to serious amputation hazards," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "Workers should not be asked to take such risks, and OSHA will not tolerate such disregard for worker safety."

Citations Disputed

Renee Robinson, Ball Corporation's manager of corporate communications, said in an email Tuesday (April 16):, "Ball Aerosol and Specialty Container Inc. disagrees strongly with the OSHA citation and characterizations in its press statement regarding conditions at our Hubbard, Ohio, paint and general line plant.

"We intend to resolve our disagreements through the regulatory process and accordingly cannot comment further, except to note we take this issue very seriously and have begun a review of OSHA's citation and the safety processes we have in place.

"We will take whatever measures that are appropriate at the end of this review to ensure that we are continuing to maintain a safe environment for our employees," Robinson wrote.

Ball Aerosol
Ball Aerosol and Specialty Container

The paint-can maker says it takes the allegations "very seriously" and is reviewing its processes.

The company has 15 business days from receiving the citations to contest the them.

Amputation Hazards

Six willful citations—OSHA's highest level of infraction—allege inadequate machine guarding over the blades of slitter machines. OSHA classified the violations as willful because Ball Aerosol certified abatement for machine guarding on the equipment in 2009 and has a history of these violations.

Willful violations are committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

The company "knowingly continued to violate agency requirements each time the machinery was placed in operation," OSHA stated.

The seventh willful citation alleges lack of machine guarding over nip points and rotating parts on feed tables. The same equipment was also cited in 2009.

"Lack of machine guarding exposes operators to amputation hazards of the hands and fingers," OSHA stated.

Machine guarding

Machine guarding accidents injure more than 18,000 workers and kill more than 800 each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says.

Workers who operate and maintain machinery suffer about 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, abrasions, and more than 800 deaths per year, according to OSHA, which provides an eTool for recognizing and controlling amputation hazards.

Severe Violator

OSHA has placed Ball Aerosol in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on "recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations."

The program mandates targeted follow-up inspections that can be performed at any of the employer's facilities if OSHA has "reasonable grounds" to believe there are similar violations.

Ball Aerosol must submit an abatement plan within 25 days and submit progress reports every 30 days thereafter, according to OSHA.

The proposed penalties for the willful citations total $490,000.

Repeat Violations, Fall Hazards

Three repeat safety violations were issued for failing to provide fire extinguisher training to employees; provide machine guarding to protect operators from rotating parts, nip and pinch points in machine areas; and to guard the blades at two mechanical guillotine shears.

Ball Corporation Hubbard
Ball Aerosol and Specialty Container

Ball Corporation says it "disagrees strongly" with OSHA's citations.

Repeat violations are issued when an employer has been previously cited for the same or a similar violation within the last five years. Ball Aerosol was cited for these violations in 2009.

Proposed penalties for the repeat violations total $93,500.

One serious citation was issued for exposing workers to falls of approximately 10 feet while working on a platform with open sides. That penalty is $5,500.

Serious violations occur when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard the employer knew or should have known about.

Previous Violations

The company's Elgin, IL, paid a $4,900 fine for a serious violation after an employee was killed in 2007 when he fell 30 feet through a skylight that did not have fall protection barrier guards around it or personal fall protection for employees working near the skylight.

The Elgin facility was also hit with a repeat violation in 2006 for general requirements for all machines, costing the company $8,000.

About the Company

Headquartered in Broomfield, CO, Ball Aerosol produces small metal containers for a variety of chemical, food, and beverage industries.

The company employees about 12,000 workers, operates 31 production plants in the U.S., and has facilities in Asia, Europe, South America and Canada.

The Hubbard facility employs 57 workers and specializes in producing three-piece welded paint and general lines cans.

   

Tagged categories: Fatalities; Hazards; Health and safety; Metal coatings; Metals; OSHA; Violations

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