forkliftMultiple inspections during the last several years by OSHA have found that Central Transport LLC has repeatedly left dangerously defective forklifts in service in at least 11 shipping terminals in nine states: Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

As a result, the department has filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission seeking an order to require the freight shipper to remove damaged, defective and unsafe powered industrial trucks from service at all its locations nationwide.

Managers were aware of hazards

"A systemic problem demands a systemic solution," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Central Transport's corporate safety managers participated in several OSHA inspections and were aware of the widespread nature of these hazards, but have not corrected them across the board. This means that employees at many Central Transport terminals continue to be exposed to deadly or disabling injuries day after day. This must change."

The department's complaint alleges that Central Transport has been aware of the need to remove damaged, defective and unsafe forklifts from service since 2006. Several OSHA inspections resulted in 11 citations and final orders, which required Central Transport to remove damaged forklifts from service. However, OSHA inspections in 2014 of company freight terminals in Billerica, Massachusetts, and Rock Island and Hillside, Illinois, found that the company, despite its awareness of the hazards involved, knowingly allowed this dangerous practice to continue at multiple locations.

Multiple locations

"When a company operates in multiple locations and workers face similar hazards at many, if not all, locations, their safety can't be addressed in a piecemeal fashion. Given the breadth and severity of the hazards these workers face, and Central Transport's failure to respond proactively, we are seeking an order requiring correction at all of the company's locations where these hazards exist," said Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor of labor in Boston, whose office filed the complaint.

Central Transport, based in Warren, Michigan, employs about 4,300 workers at 170 locations nationwide. It has 20 days from receipt of its complaint to file an answer with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Scott M. Miller of the department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston is litigating the case.