An Everett scrap metal dealer – one of the largest such companies on the East Coast – has run afoul of workplace safety violations and is facing serious violations this week and large fines from the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Prolerized New England Co. LLC, doing business as Schnitzer Northeast, for 10 alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards at its Everett recycling facility, where two workers were injured.
Proposed penalties total $70,000, though a process must be adhered to before making any final decisions on the violations and fines.
The injured employees were performing maintenance work inside a large rotating drum used to sort scrap material for recycling when the drum activated, injuring them, according to an OSHA report.
OSHA’s Andover Area Office conducted an inspection in response to the September 2011 incident and identified several serious deficiencies in the facility’s hazardous energy control procedures, which should ensure machines are deactivated and their power sources locked out before employees perform maintenance work.
In this case, the procedures were incomplete and not clearly communicated, training was inadequate, and the procedures were not reviewed to ensure that they were effective and understood by the employees, alleged OSHA.
The inspection also found that the employees were not trained to work in confined spaces, such as the drum, and were not provided a hot work permit for welding performed inside the drum. Finally, the employees were exposed to the hazard of falling into the drum through an unguarded chute opening.
OSHA said it assessed the maximum fine of $7,000 for each of the violations, for a total of $70,000 in fines.
A serious violation occurs 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.
“The unexpected startup of machinery during maintenance can injure or kill workers in seconds,” said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA’s area director for Essex and Middlesex counties. “Preventing this hazard requires a combination of effective hazard control procedures, training and diligence to ensure that the proper safeguards are in place, in use and understood by workers.”
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.