This Ohio auto parts manufacturer – with an OSHA rap sheet going back 20 years – was aware of serious machine hazards at its Hebron plant, but did little to fix the hazards or train workers – even after a spate of injuries left employees with amputation injuries and broken bones.
The result? Nearly $3.5 million in fines and a spot in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
OSHA issued 57 citations for safety violations to Sunfield, Inc., claiming the company failed to disconnect machinery from a power supply and prevent sudden movement before maintenance and service and to train workers in how to operate machine presses safely and to service and maintain them.
OSHA Chief David Michaels said the company brazenly put production before safety, going so far as to demand unreasonable and unattainable quotas.
The penalties assessed are one of the largest OSHA penalties ever filed against a company in the automotive parts industry.
Despite its poor safety record – 118 violations over 20 years – and repeated warnings from the company’s own safety manager that workers lacked the training to protect themselves, the company continued to flout safety laws, OSHA said.
The company repeatedly assured OSHA that it would address unsafe conditions, Michaels said, but it “broke countless promises to improve safety conditions and eliminate serious hazards on the factory floor. Still, the company risked the safety and well-being of its employees as they operated dangerous and powerful industrial machines.”
Michaels said the agency hasn’t seen such callous disregard for worker safety “since industrialists ruled and put profits before safety.”
“Sunfield has shown a callous total disregard for its workers,” Michaels said. “This has to stop. We hope that today’s action brings an end to these conditions and convinces this employer that their behavior is intolerable.”
OSHA issued citations for 46 egregious willful, two willful, one repeat and eight serious safety violations with penalties totaling $3,426,900.
Violations include failure to guard machines, implement a lockout/tagout program and train employees on machine hazards. Inspectors also spotted multiple electrical safety violations including lack of PPE, workers exposed to “live” electrical parts and use of damaged equipment.
Regulators inspected Sunfield’s plant after two workers suffered severe injuries in separate incidents in January and February.
The OSHA investigation found:
- A 22-year-old male temporary worker employed by a staffing agency suffered multiple lacerations and a fractured right elbow, while removing scrap from a blanking press after operating machine parts caught his arm because safety light curtains were not operating correctly. Inspectors said a supervisor had identified the safety issue two hours prior to the injury, and failed to place the equipment out of service. The injured worker had been on the job just six months.
- A full-time 58-year-old employee had to undergo amputation of his right arm after it was crushed as he removed scrap on a robotic press line. Investigators again found that the machine’s danger zone did not have adequate safe guards to prevent employees from coming in contact with operating machine parts. He had been on the job for just a year.
Since 1997, 16 of 20 inspections conducted by OSHA found multiple violations, almost all of which involved machine hazards.
OSHA also cited three temporary staffing agencies hired by the company, Atrium Personnel and iforce of Heath, as well as Employers Overload of Newark for failing to provide lockout/tagout training for employees and failing to provide mechanical power press safe operation training prior to sending workers to the site. Each company faces penalties of $7,000.