ELIDA, Ohio -- An employee complaint led inspectors from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration to a wood pallet manufacturing facility in Elida operated by A & D Wood Products, where they found workers at risk of amputation, explosion and other life-threatening hazards.
Employees operated machines without eye protection and without effective safeguards from moving parts amid large amounts of combustible wood dust piled throughout the facility. The force from such an explosion can cause deaths, injuries and destruction of buildings.
These unsafe working conditions prompted OSHA to issue four willful, four repeated and 19 serious health and safety violations. Its Aug. 21, 2014, inspection found the 10 employees of A & D Wood Products were routinely exposed to amputation*, combustible dust and other dangerous hazards. The company faces proposed penalties of $133,540 and has been placed in the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
'A & D Wood Products operates a manufacturing shop that exposes workers to real hazards daily, creating an environment that forces workers to make a choice between their lives and their livelihood,' said Kim Nelson, OSHA's area director in Toledo. 'With 27 violations, it's clear the safety and health of its workforce is not a priority for them.'
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board identified 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005 that led to the deaths of 119 workers, 718 injuries and extensive damage to numerous industrial facilities.
OSHA issued four willful violations related to the hazards, including the combustible dust violations. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.
Workers were also exposed to amputation and other injury hazards because devices were not used to prevent equipment from suddenly starting during service and maintenance, a procedure known as lockout/tagout. Inspectors also flagged electrical safety hazards as cabinets were not closed properly to prevent contact with energized wires. A & D Wood Products was cited for similar violations at the facility in November 2011. OSHA issues repeated violations if an employer was previously cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.
A & D also failed to provide hearing protection and audiometric testing for employees, which can identify premature hearing loss. Noise-related hearing loss is one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the U.S., with an estimated 30 million workers exposed to noise each year. This exposure can cause permanent hearing loss that neither surgery nor a hearing aid can correct.
OSHA inspectors also noted additional machine guarding and electrical safety violations, poor hygiene conditions and unsafe practices related to forklift operations, including leaving forklifts running and unattended. The company also failed to train employees on fire extinguisher use and about hazardous chemicals and products used in the facility, and provided inadequate personal protective equipment. In total, 19 serious violations were cited.
A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
A & D Wood Products has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Citations can be viewed at: https://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/AandD_Pallet_991395_2_20_15.pdf* and https://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/AandD_Pallet_993582_2_20_15.pdf*
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Toledo office at 419-259-7542.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.