U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA Fines Three Wisconsin Companies Over $231,000 For Workplace Safety and Health Violations

Three different companies in Wisconsin were hit with proposed fines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) during the months of March and April for alleged violations of federal workplace health and safety regulations.

On March 29, 2010, Val-O-Mo Farm, Inc. in Elmwood was cited and fined after an October 2009 investigation into the death of a migrant worker. The worker drowned in an earthen manure pit after the farm vehicle he was operating slid down into the pit, trapping him. OSHA fined Val-O-Mo Farm, Inc. a proposed penalty of $7,200 for failing to provide a guard that would prevent machinery from falling into the pit, issues with the seatbelts in the vehicle, and deficient training for workers operating the farm vehicles. This was the first OSHA investigation at the farm.

On April 19, 2010, OSHA cited American Packaging Corp. with a $127,300 fine for 29 alleged serious violations of federal workplace standards stemming from another October 2009 investigation into a worker’s death.  A maintenance technician was killed during an explosion at the Columbus-based plant after he proceeded to operate metal grinding machinery in the presence of flammable vapors. Twenty-six of the 29 serious citations were for health violations including failure to provide adequate safety procedures, failure to properly train workers with safe practices and a lack of a proper emergency response plan. These 26 citations resulted in a $108,450 fine. American Packaging Corp. was also fined $18,900 for alleged safety violations revolving around its failure to identify and prevent safety concerns involving the use of cutting machinery in potentially explosive atmospheres.

On April 27, 2010, announced a proposed $96,500 fine against Milwaukee’s Packaging Corporation of America for alleged serious and willful violations of federal workplace safety regulations. The company was issued a $70,000 citation for what OSHA termed a willful violation for an alleged failure to provide workers with adequate personal protection equipment to be used when responding to a caustic solution spell. Additionally, Packaging Corporation of America was issued six level serious citations amounting to $26,500 for failing to provide workers with a proper plan and procedures for emergency situations related to a caustic solution spill. The company has been investigated by OSHA more than 40 times and has received over 90 citations in the past 10 years alone, including an investigation into the deaths of 3 workers killed in an explosion at the company’s Tomahawk, Wisconsin plant in July of 2008.

OSHA defines willful violations as those “committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.” Serious violations are defined as those carrying the possibility that “death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.”

Each company has 15 days from the receipt of the violations to either comply with the safety regulations or contest the citations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a federal agency headed by the U.S. Department of Labor that works to enforce federal workplace safety regulations and improve the safety of working conditions for all United States workers.

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