In another sign of OSHA’s pumped up enforcement stance, the agency last week banged Milk Specialties Co. in Whitehall, Wisc., with multiple violations of federal workplace safety and health standards and proposed $1,145,200 in penalties.
OSHA began a December 2008 inspection in response to a complaint alleging a variety of safety hazards at the company's whey processing plant. Willful citations have been issued for the employer's failure to comply with OSHA's confined space entry and control of hazardous energy requirements. Untrained employees entered confined spaces and performed maintenance and cleaning on powered equipment without protection from various hazards, according to OSHA. Proposed penalties for the 17 willful violations total $1,071,000. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
"I am committed to ensuring workers return home to their families safe and healthy at the end of every shift," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Employers must fully address hazards, properly train their employees and plan their work in a safe manner."
Seventeen serious citations, with proposed penalties totaling $52,400, include combustible dust and electrical hazards; lack of exit route lighting and signage; lack of confined space evaluations; uninspected fire extinguishers; and untrained and uncertified powered industrial truck operators, among other issues. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result if an accident were to occur from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Four repeat violations with penalties totaling $21,800 address the guarding of floor and wall openings, ladders and respiratory protection, and other issues addressed in previous inspections of this company. OSHA issues a repeat citation when it finds an employer's violation is substantially similar to a previously cited condition that was affirmed as a violation through a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Milk Specialties has been inspected by OSHA 15 times since 1974, including four inspections in Wisconsin between 2006 and 2008, with citations resulting from many of the same safety and health hazards cited in the most recent inspection.
The company engages in the research, development and manufacture of protein and fat products for nutritional applications and feeding regimes that include products such as pasteurized milk extenders, spray-dried protein encapsulated fats, dried whey permeates, and condensed whey and liquid whey products.
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