Manufacturing

Local company faces alleged OSHA violations

By: DAN HEATH

PLATTSBURGH — Solve Composites LLC is facing fines of up to $69,244 from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The company, which manufactures fiberglass-reinforced plastic composite parts for transportation and commercial use, was cited for alleged recurring and new violations of workplace-safety and health standards at its Plattsburgh facility, located at Imperial Industrial Park.

The action came after an inspection of the plant on Feb. 11 by staff from OSHA’s Albany office.

HAZARDS CITED

The cited conditions include explosion and deflagration hazards due to an inadequately designed, installed and maintained system to collect and dispose of combustible dust generated during the manufacturing process; fire hazards from inadequate ventilation and procedures for the storage and dispensing of flammable liquids; and failure to train workers in the use of fire extinguishers.

Other recurring hazards, according to the news release, include not providing training and a hearing conservation program for workers exposed to high noise levels, workers being overexposed to hazardous chemicals, lack of chemical-hazard communication training and a misused electrical cord.

The proposed fines for the recurring violations amount to $53,074.

PROMPT ACTION REQUIRED

“Unfortunately, we found several recurring hazards that expose employees to explosion and fire hazards, hearing loss, hazardous chemicals and electric shock,” Kimberly Castillon, OSHA’s area director in Albany, said in a press release.

“This employer must take prompt, effective and ongoing action to ensure these hazards are corrected for good. The safety and well-being of its workers depend on it.”

Three serious citations, with $16,170 in fines, were issued for not providing annual audiometric testing to workers exposed to high noise levels and not informing workers of excessive noise and noise-level monitoring results, the release said.

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.

FINDINGS DISPUTED

Solve Composites Plant Manager Alisa Langille said the company disagrees with OSHA’s findings.

“We are disputing those fines. It is in the hands of our attorney,” she said, adding they have retained O’Connell and Aronowitz, a Plattsburgh law firm, to represent them.

Solve was cited for 31 alleged violations in April 2011, with a proposed fine of up to $126,000.

Ted Fitzgerald of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs said the case was settled in May 2012, when Solve agreed to correct all hazards and pay a fine of $69,000.

Langille said the company at that time disputed an allegation that the dust created at the plant was explosive. They hired an outside consultant who found their dust-handling system was in compliance with OSHA regulations.

CHANGES MADE

As to the serious citations, Langille said the nature of the company’s work requires the use of pneumatic equipment. Based on the noise created by that equipment, Solve had an industrial hygienist conduct an audit of the plant before the OSHA inspection.

They didn’t have time to implement the consultant’s recommendations before the inspection, she said, but have since done so.

Solve Composites LLC has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com

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