Thomson company facing federal fines




A Thomson, Ga., industry that makes material for the automotive industry is facing fines totaling $70,000 over safety and health violations cited by the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

In a proposed order made public today, OSHA said HP Pelzer Automotive Systems Inc., which manufactures felt-based components for major automakers, was inspected in March 2009 to determine compliance with the agency's National Emphasis Program on Combustible Dust.

Citations were issued after that visit, and a follow-up inspection was conducted in October 2009. OSHA subsequently cited the company with four repeat and one serious violation of the federal standards.

The four repeat violations, with a proposed penalty of $65,000, include failing to maintain storage areas free of accumulating combustible dust , failing to implement engineering controls to minimize employees' exposure to dust, exposing workers to fall hazards and failing to have a respiratory protection program, according to an OSHA press release. OSHA issues repeat violations when it finds a substantially similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other of an employer's facilities in federal enforcement states.

The serious violation, with a proposed penalty of $5,000, is for failing to ensure lockout/tagout devices were affixed to equipment to isolate energy while performing maintenance. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

"This company needs to fully implement safety and health standards to provide a safe workplace for its employees," said Gei-Thae Breezley area director for the agency's Atlanta-East office. "No employee needs to risk his or her health or life working under these conditions."

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

HP Pelzer is a  a German company founded in 1969. The 26-acre Thomson facility was founded as Southern Fiber, then merged into Sheller-Globe, which was purchased by Untied Technology, according to Augusta Chronicle reports. United Technology sold the plant to HP Pelzer Automotive Systems in 1997.



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