Sidney facility cited for false statements to OSHA, ‘blatant disregard for worker safety’

Rachel Lloyd rlloyd@civitasmedia.com

July 16, 2014

SIDNEY — The Sidney plant of Formed Fiber Technologies LLC has been issued 14 safety citations, including willful and repeat citations, as well as a notice of failure to abate with proposed fines totaling $816,500 after the company reportedly provided false documentation and made false representations claiming that previously cited dangers had been corrected.

The plant, which produces interior trim for automative manufacturers such as Toyota and General Motors, was issued one failure to abate, nine willful and four repeat safety violations for continuously exposing employees to possible amputations and other dangerous situations.

Formed Fiber Technologies was cited for 11 violations in October 2013 with proposed fines of $115,000 after a complaint was filed and an investigation was conducted by OSHA in April 2013. The company entered into a settlement agreement that included terms for abatement of hazards along with a penalty of $69,000. Many of the violations found in the follow-up inspection involved those same hazards.

OSHA initiated the inspection as part of its Severe Violators Enforcement Program. Prior to October 2013, the company had been inspected by OSHA 16 times at its facilities nationwide, resulting in 80 citations.

“Formed Fiber Technologies apparently decided that production was more important than ensuring its’ workers safety,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “They provided false abatement documentation to OSHA. They knew how hazardous these machines were without proper safeguard and also knew how to fix those hazards. OSHA will not tolerate such blatant disregard for worker safety.”

The Sidney Daily News contacted the Sidney facility Wednesday afternoon for comment on the citations. After initially agreeing to provide a brief statement, a representative of the company said there would be “no comment” at this time.

OSHA’s inspection in January 2014 found that abatement documentation provided by the company in December was false and that employees had been exposed to unguarded machines and unsafe maintenance procedures well after management’s abatement claims.

Failing to protect workers from dangerous machinery is one of OSHA’s most frequently cited violations. Injuries involving this type of machinery often result in death or permanent disability, a statement from OSHA said.

According to Shelby County Common Pleas Court records, at least seven personal injury or worker’s compensation related civil suits have been filed against Formed Fiber Technologies in the past 10 years. A case that is currently open claims the plaintiff was severely injured while operating a machine at the plant in May 2013 after the company “deliberately removed an equipment safety guard” on the machine.

Nine willful citations were issued for failing to prevent start up of machines during maintenance, set up and service. The company also failed to develop proper lockout/tag out procedures and encouraged workers to use unsafe methods to stop machines for maintenance, according to the OSHA reports. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Four repeat violation citations involved failing to train workers how to properly stop machines before service and maintenance, which continuously exposed machine operators to cuts, burns, amputation or crushing injuries. The company also did not have notices on equipment indicating the presence of such hazards. A repeat violation is one for which the employer has been previously cited within the past five years or a similar violation.

The current citations may be viewed in their entirety at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/FormedFiberTechnologies_956889_07_15_14.pdf.

The company, based in Auburn, Maine, employs 340 workers at the Sidney facility.

The company has 15 business days from the receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference or contest the findings.