ambulanceSeven workers at a South Milwaukee manufacturing plant directed to clean up after an acid spill suffered burns and other injuries, resulting in six OSHA violations and proposed penalties of $166,000.

Burns, respiratory distress

The incident at Cooper Power Systems LLC occurred on Oct. 30, 2013, when approximately 15-20 gallons of phosphoric/sulfuric acid were released from an overpressurized hose at the facility. OSHA's investigation found that employees were directed to perform clean-up operations despite the company's written policy to bring in qualified outside services for this type of work. Following the cleanup, the employees started to experience symptoms of exposure to acid, including shortness of breath, headache, skin irritation and burns. The respiratory distress victim required urgent medical care.

The company was cited for failing to provide workers with required protective equipment to prevent exposure and failure to provide required training in hazardous material clean-up procedures.

OSHA has cited two willful violations for directing employees to respond to an acid spill without conducting a hazard evaluation, lack of personal protective equipment and failing to train workers in emergency response procedures.

No decomtamination, first aid

Cooper Power Systems was also cited for four serious safety violations including failing to develop an emergency response plan; provide decontamination and first aid treatment for responders; and provide respiratory and personal protective equipment for use during cleanup.

"Cooper Power Systems showed a complete disregard for the health and safety of its workers when they made them perform a cleanup of a dangerous chemical without providing them with required training and protective gear," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "These seven employees were needlessly injured because this company was more interested in a fast cleanup than protecting the people who work for them."

Cooper Power Systems has been previously cited by OSHA 11 times since 1989.

Cooper Power Systems is a division of Waukesha-based Eaton's Electrical Sector, which produces a range of power delivery products for use in the utility, commercial, industrial, mining, renewable energy and other markets.

The South Milwaukee plant employs about 480 workers. Eaton has approximately 102,000 employees worldwide and sells products in more than 175 countries.