An Alabama company faces more than $3 million in OSHA fines for exposing workers to amputation hazards and other problems at two plants. When it comes to punishing the company, OSHA didn’t stop there.
As part of a new policy, Whitesell Corp. has also been sharply condemned by OSHA.
Last month, we told you about one of the new weapons in OSHA’s arsenal, “regulation by shaming.” OSHA hopes public condemnation of business activities that result in serious injury or death will act as a deterrent. The agency said it would issue more hard-hitting press releases that explain clearly why an employer faced a large fine.
OSHA called its inspections at the Whitesell factories the worst they’ve conducted at an Alabama organization in a decade.
The agency started its inspection of the company’s plant in Tuscumbia in March after receiving a report that a worker’s hand had been amputated.
Investigators say Whitesell adjusted equipment to speed up production and therefore put workers in immediate danger.
The conditions were so bad that OSHA extended the inspection to Whitesell’s Muscle Shoals plant. It found serious hazards there as well.
“Whitesell willfully tampered with the safety mechanisms of its hydraulic forging presses at its Tuscumbia plant to speed up production, resulting in the amputation of a worker’s hand,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is quoted as saying in a press release. Solis went on to describe Whitesell as a company that valued “short-term gain over their workers’ safety.”
Public condemnation, indeed. Local media reported the fines with “worst in decade” headlines.
For the Tuscumbia plant, OSHA issued $986,500 in penalties for 14 willful and 6 serious and 2 other-than-serious violations. At the Muscle Shoals plant, OSHA issued $2.08 million in penalties for 29 willful and 21 serious violations.
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