Q: How do you hide an entire production line from OSHA?
A: You don’t.
But OSHA claims MP Global Products LLC in Norfolk, NE, tried to do just that when the agency’s inspectors showed up after an employee suffered injuries.
“MP Global shut down an entire production line, turned the lights off and herded employees into the back room where they were instructed to remain quiet during OSHA’s inspection,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “Knowingly requiring workers to operate unsafe machinery and threatening their jobs for reporting unsafe work practices are illegal and shameful activities.”
A 65-year-old worker at the plant suffered amputation of one finger and severe damage to another when his left hand was caught as he operated a machine.
Workers told investigators the company threatened to fire anyone who told inspectors about their safety concerns.
OSHA cited the company for 25 violations (2 willful, 22 serious and 1 other-than-serious), with a total fine of $244,000. MP Global is now in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program which requires follow-up inspections. Companies can be in the SVEP for several years.
Among the violations:
- numerous machines lacking safety guards that exposed workers to hazards that could cause amputations
- failure to train workers about machine safety procedures and vehicle operation
- blocked aisles
- inadequate emergency exit signs
- defective powered industrial trucks in operation, and
- numerous electrical hazards, including damaged electrical boxes and exposed wires.
MP manufactures materials for use beneath laminate, tile and hardwood flooring. Its products are sold nationwide by various distributors, including Home Depot.
Al Collison, the company’s founder, owner and president, told the Omaha World Herald that he plans to dispute OSHA’s claims at a meeting with the agency Sept. 15.
Collison said a lot of the allegations were “not accurate.” Specifically, he said, “That particular [production] line was not running that day. We did not herd people into another room. We don’t have environments dangerous to employees.”