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OSHA Unloads New Case on U.S. Minerals

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued new citations against U.S. Minerals Inc., alleging machine guarding, fall and respiratory hazards at one of its newer facilities, in Roberts, WI.

The case is OSHA's 11th in eight years against the Dyer, IN-based manufacturer, one of the largest U.S. producers of coal slag and iron silicate roofing granules, abrasives and fillers.

U.S. Minerals has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in OSHA penalties in that period for citations at four of its seven manufacturing facilities.

USMinerals
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.

None of the citations over the years has involved an injury or accident at any U.S. Minerals facility—a safety record that the company strongly emphasizes.

Challenge Planned

As it has previously, the company said it would contest the new allegations.

“US Minerals is very concerned for the Safety and Health of its Employees at all of its locations," U.S. Minerals president Michael J. Johnston said in an emailed statement Tuesday (March 3).

"The company has a comprehensive Safety and Health system in place for every one of its facilities.

"US Minerals cooperated fully with OSHA during its site visit to the Roberts, WI facility, providing full access to its employees and every area of the facility. The company has just received the citations from OSHA and is reviewing their findings in detail.

"We take exception to some of the findings and will be requesting an informal conference with OSHA’s area director.”

New Plant Cited

The current case alleges four repeat, three serious and two other-than-serious violations, with proposed fines totaling $113,000.

Unlike U.S. Minerals' four older plants, which have all drawn OSHA inspections and citations, the new violations are alleged at the company's second-newest production facility.

The Wisconsin plant, which replaces the former ATI Black Diamond plant in Woodbury, MN, "is equipped with the latest washing, crushing and screening capabilities," U.S. Minerals said when the facility opened.

U.S. Minerals, owned by Chicago-based private equity firm Merit Capital Partners, acquired ATI Black Diamond in December 2012.

Enforcement History

U.S. Minerals has been inspected by OSHA 18 times since 1983.

AbrasiveBlasting
OSHA

Abrasives exposures and operations are subject to variety of federal health and safety regulations.

Its current series of problems began in 2007, when the company's plant in Baldwin, IL, was accused of 14 serious and three other-than-serious violations, with penalties totaling $15,150.

In March 2010, OSHA inspected the Baldwin plant again and, that September, returned 35 violations and $466,400 in proposed fines, alleging a variety of dust and respiratory infractions. That inspection also triggered others for the company, eventually bringing citations for its plants in Coffeen, IL; Galveston, TX; and Harvey, LA.

There was also a second inspection at Baldwin that yielded a second round of violations. OSHA called the Baldwin plant "antiquated and poorly maintained."

By the end of 2010, shouldering more than 140 citations and more than $1.4 million in proposed fines, U.S. Minerals was placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Two months later, a third round of citations was issued to Baldwin.

In August 2012, U.S. Minerals signed a settlement agreement to resolve what was then eight cases carrying more than $1.5 million in fines. The company paid $700,000 to settle everything.

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

Indiana-based U.S. Minerals produces coal-slag and iron silicate roofing granules, abrasives and fillers.

But in January 2014, the Baldwin plant drew a fourth round of citations that carried more than $195,000 in fines. Two months after that, another round of citations hit the Harvey plant with fines totaling $77,770. Again, the company contested the case.

New Accusations

The new case out of Wisconsin alleges that U.S. Minerals has failed to meet goals outlined in the 2012 settlement.

“U.S. Minerals continues to demonstrate that the safety and health of its workers is not a corporate priority,” said Mark Hysell, area director of OSHA’s Eau Claire office. "This is a disheartening setback for worker safety at this company.”

Some of the allegations echo those made in 2012 against the Baldwin and Harvey plants. They include:

  • Amputation and crushing hazards at a conveyor and while clearing pallet jams and debris from a pallet elevator; and
  • Allowing workers to unclog a chute at a height of 25 feet without adequate fall protection.
USMinerals
U.S. Minerals

U.S. Minerals is accused of failing to meet goals outlined in a 2012 settlement agreement.

OSHA inspectors also allege:

  • The presence of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen, in eating areas;
  • Lack of employee training on hazardous chemicals;
  • Lack of rescue and emergency procedures; and
  • Inappropriate ladder use.

Company Response

U.S. Minerals has contested all of the previous citations, either disputing the accusations outright or calling them overstated.

In 2010, for example, the company said that its respirators “provide a level of protection that ensures respiratory safety at dust exposure levels well beyond those that have been identified in these allegations.”

To an allegation in the same case that the company lacked a confined-space entry program, U.S. Minerals said, “OSHA agreed with the company in 2008 that such a program was not required.”

   

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

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