OSHA has cited New England Motor Freight Inc., an Elizabeth, N.J.-based freight carrier, for 17 serious, repeat and other-than-serious violations after an employee sustained a foot injury while operating a forklift at the company's Pawtucket, R.I., freight terminal. The company faces a total of $76,000 in fines.

According to an OSHA press release, agency inspectors found several instances where forklifts were operated incorrectly, resulting in collisions and an injury. Employees were not wearing attached seatbelts while operating forklifts and forklift operators did not receive required refresher training. These conditions resulted in the issuance of seven serious citations, with $25,500 in proposed fines. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"Employers and workers must understand that lack of operator training and improper operation of forklifts can have severe and lasting consequences for workers," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director for Rhode Island. "OSHA standards mandate initial and periodic refresher training for forklift operators to ensure the machines are operated safely."

The inspection also found that defective forklifts were not removed from service and no assessment had been made to determine the personal protective equipment needed for forklift operators who changed liquefied petroleum gas tanks. OSHA previously had cited New England Motor Freight for similar hazards at terminals in Meriden, Conn., and South Plainfield, N.J. As a result, OSHA issued the company two repeat citations with $42,500 in fines for these latest violations. A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

Finally, the company was issued eight other-than-serious citations and fined $8,000 for inadequate and incomplete recording of on-the-job injuries and illnesses. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.