N.Y. Recycler Hit with OSHA Fines Following Worker Fatality

January 4, 2006

Gershow Recycling Company has agreed to correct all hazards, pay $26,000 in fines and take additional steps to protect workers after being cited by the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for serious and repeat safety hazards following a fatal accident at its Medford, N.Y., recycling facility.

On June 23, an employee at the Medford facility was fatally burned when hydraulic fluid ignited while other employees used a torch to repair a bent hydraulic line on a payloader. OSHA’s investigation found that the flammable hydraulic fluid had not been bled from the line prior to the use of the torch, creating a fire hazard.

The inspection, expanded when OSHA reportedly learned of an earlier accident at the plant involving a forklift, also identified several other hazards. These included defective forklifts; untrained employees operating forklifts in an unsafe manner; obstructed exit access; unsecured LP gas containers; unguarded moving machine parts; electrical hazards; and not providing employees with hazard communication training. These violations, together with the fire hazard, resulted in nine serious citations against Gershow Recycling.

The company was also cited for three repeat violations for deficiencies in connection with fall protection, confined space safety and lockout/tagout procedures that render machinery inoperable during maintenance and repair. OSHA had cited Gershow Recycling in January 2004 for similar hazards at the company’s Brooklyn recycling facility.

Under the settlement, the company has agreed to implement additional safety and health measures at its facilities in Medford, Lindenhurst, New Hyde Park and Brooklyn, N.Y. These include hiring a full-time safety director who will be responsible for developing an effective company-wide safety and health program; conducting quarterly self-inspections to address various hazards; and submitting illness and injury logs to OSHA for review on a quarterly basis for the next year.

“This agreement commits the company not only to correct the hazards found in this inspection, but also to identify and effectively address hazards at all its workplaces,” said Patricia Jones, OSHA’s Long Island area director. “The goal is a safer work environment company-wide.”

OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. Repeat citations are issued when an employer has previously been cited for substantially similar hazards and those citations have become final.

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