U-Haul of Western N.Y. Pulled Over During Inspection Fines at Rental Facility

September 13, 2004

U-Haul of Western New York faces $73,200 in fines from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for reportedly failing to adequately protect employees working with hazardous chemicals at its Tonawanda, N.Y., truck rental and leasing facility.

The 2843 Kenmore Ave. facility was cited for eight alleged repeat and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an OSHA inspection begun June 30 in response to employee complaints. Employees work with a variety of hazardous chemicals, including cleansers, antifreeze, paints and germicides, during truck maintenance and cleaning and while refilling propane tanks.

OSHA’s inspection reportedly found that the company had not adequately informed employees of the hazards associated with these chemicals. Specifically, U-Haul failed to implement a hazard communication program; lacked material safety data sheets for chemicals; failed to train employees in chemical hazards; and did not label containers with chemicals’ identities and hazard warnings. In addition, the company failed to maintain an illness and injury log and did not record all worker injuries.

“Hazard communication means informing and training employees about hazardous chemicals in their workplace, the dangers associated with them and steps to take if a worker is exposed,” Art Dube, OSHA’s Buffalo area director, said. “This information, which is critical to preventing worker injuries and illnesses, was lacking at this workplace.”

OSHA had cited U-Haul in April for similar hazards at a Littleton, Colo., facility. As a result, these latest citations are classified as repeat and $70,200 in fines are proposed for them. OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer has been previously been cited for a substantially similar hazard and the citations have become final.

The company was also fined $3,000 for two serious citations for failing to maintain power tools in a safe condition and for using an extension cord in place of permanent wiring. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm can result to an employee from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

U-Haul of Western New York has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and fines to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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