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US-based packaging manufacturer facing $177,000 fine after worker suffers second-degree burns

16 August 2022

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a packaging manufacturer after an investigation found the company had failed to follow required federal safety standards that might have prevented the incident. International Cushioning Co. faces $177K in penalties after a 25-year-old employee suffered serious arm burns in February 2022.

OSHA opened an investigation into International Cushioning Co. in Fremont, Ohio on 10 February 2022 after learning of the employee’s injury and receiving a referral by the local fire department alleging fire hazards due to poor housekeeping of combustibles and flammables.

During the investigation, OSHA learned the worker was removing polyethylene foam from an extruding machine when a static discharge ignited isobutane, a colourless, flammable gas released in the production process. The heated foam melted on the employee's arm, causing second-degree burns.

Inspectors also found industrial fans positioned on the foam line were not properly rated for use in hazardous atmospheres, and that the employer failed to provide workers with spark-resistant hand tools – violations that exposed workers to potential ignition hazards. The company also failed to provide adequate protective equipment for the workers' hands, arms and feet.

"A young worker might have been spared these serious injuries if International Cushioning Company met specific federal standards for the safe operation of foam manufacturing equipment," said OSHA Area Director Todd Jensen in Toledo. "During our initial inspection in Fremont, inspectors found additional issues and identified more than two dozen violations and related hazards the company must address before other employees are harmed."

"This company must address what appears to be a workplace culture where employee safety is not emphasized and workers are exposed to serious injuries," Jensen added. "We will use all enforcement powers at our disposal to protect workers."

The February inspection also led OSHA to cite the company for failing to report an injury within 24 hours, as required; allowing operation of machinery, including grinders, pulleys and belts, without required safety guards; lacking machine safety procedures, commonly known as lockout/tagout; failing to train employees as required; not ensuring use of electrical safe work practices; and permitting unsafe operation of powered industrial vehicles.

A March 2 health inspection found unsanitary conditions and process safety management violations. Inspectors also learned the company did not have a hearing conservation program or an emergency action plan.

In all, OSHA issued citations for 25 serious safety and health violations and proposed $177,950 in penalties.

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