N.Y. Employer Faces Fines Following Accident

September 27, 2005

A March 15 accident that left a worker with second and third degree burns over much of his body has resulted in an Akron, N.Y., manufacturer being fined $115,550 by the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Whiting Door Manufacturing Corp., which manufactures and sells trailer doors for the transportation industry, was cited for a total of 14 alleged willful, serious and other than serious violations of safety standards at its 113 Cedar St. plant. OSHA’s inspection was prompted by a March 15 accident in which an employee working on the plant’s coating line fell into an elevated 7,000 gallon tank of hot caustic solution.

OSHA’s inspection reportedly found that the company had removed previously installed protective grating that would have prevented such a fall at this and other locations on the coating line. Also, when workers requested a copy of the company’s chemical hazard communication program after the accident, management reportedly refused to provide it, even though OSHA standards require it to do so.

“The company clearly knew it had to protect workers against falls into chemical tanks and provide information about the hazardous chemicals with which they work, yet refused to do so,” said Art Dube, OSHA’s area director in Buffalo. “The result was an accident that seriously burned a worker and conditions that exposed other workers to the same hazard.”

OSHA issued two willful citations, carrying $68,000 in proposed fines, for these items. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

The company was also fined $47,550 and issued 12 serious and other than serious citations for deficiencies in the plant’s confined space, lockout/tagout, hazard communication, lead and bloodborne pathogen programs and for failing to record all on-the-job injuries and illnesses within seven days, as required. OSHA defines a serious violation as a condition where death or serious physical harm can result to an employee from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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