OSHA says unsafe Nichiha factory should be fined $138,600

mstucka@macon.comFebruary 27, 2014 

The Macon manufacturing operations of Nichiha USA Inc. have repeatedly put workers in peril and should pay $138,600 in fines, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday.

OSHA said the factory on Avondale Mill Road was checked after a complaint was filed. Inspectors found four violations repeated from a 2009 inspection, when the company was cited with $20,790 in penalties. Inspectors also found three serious safety violations.

The company makes fiber cement exterior claddings and has about 192 workers, OSHA said. The agency said it found the violations in late August and early September. Citations have Monday’s date.

Company officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

In a statement, OSHA’s area director, Bill Fulcher, said that “Nichiha is not taking the necessary steps to protect its workers by ensuring machinery is properly locked out and de-energized before employees perform maintenance and cleaning. Workers are exposed to the risk of serious injury or death just to earn a paycheck. Changes must be made immediately.”

OSHA’s statement said that the repeat violations included not training workers properly in using the energy control program to safely allow equipment to be serviced and did not create a procedure that would keep equipment from starting up during the work. Workers cleaning sludge from a pit also were not properly trained, OSHA said. The repeat violations carry $117,810 in proposed violations.

OSHA said the facility had been inspected multiple times and was cited five of the six times the agency had visited the site since 2009. The factory is now in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

On April 4, 2008, a worker named Lewis Goodwin Jr., 21, tried to pick up a pen that had fallen on the floor under a conveyor belt. He was hit in the head by a piece of equipment that crushed his skull and killed him, OSHA said.

Serious violations include not accounting for all workers before removing works and energizing equipment that was undergoing maintenance and servicing. Those actions have a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could occur. The company has three weeks to comply, request a conference or appeal.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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