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Friday, May 27, 2011

OSHA fines Huntsville cabinet maker $54,000

Tommy Eden, Attorney

On May 16, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Huntsville American Cabinets Inc. in Huntsville for 21 safety and health violations, including the accumulation of combustible dust.
Proposed penalties total $54,000.

OSHA began an inspection in January as part of its National Emphasis Program on Amputations and cited the cabinet maker for 16 serious safety violations with penalties of $44,400 for failing to keep walls, floors and equipment clean and free from the accumulation of combustible dust; allowing more than 60 gallons of flammable liquid to be stored in cabinets; not selecting the correct personal protective equipment for workers handling chemicals; failing to have a lockout/tagout program to prevent accidental energy start-up; not having standard railings on the stairs; several electrical deficiencies; and amputation hazards associated with a lack of machine guarding.

Four serious health violations with $9,600 in proposed penalties are related to not providing hearing tests for employees exposed to noise levels over the permissible exposure limit; failing to develop a respiratory protection program; exposing workers to respirable dust 3.6 times the permissible exposure limit; and lacking a hazard communications program for handling hazardous chemicals. 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.

One other-than-serious violation was cited with no monetary penalty for failing to visually inspect fire extinguishers at least monthly. An other-than-serious citation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

"This company has jeopardized the health and safety of its workers by creating an environment where the accumulation of combustible dust could ignite and cause serious injuries," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's area director in Birmingham. "The accumulation of combustible dust and all hazards must be eliminated from the workplace." For information on combustible dust, visit http://www.osha.gov/dsg/combustibledust/index.html.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed 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.

Common Sense Counsel: It is advised that you have a comprehensive safety audit conducted ASAP. The next time the Government “come to help you” the cost of being in the wrong just went up.

Tommy Eden is a resident of Auburn, an attorney with the local office of Capell & Howard, P.C. and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at tme@chlaw.com or 334-501-1540.