US automotive manufacturer fined for exposing workers to toxic chemcial

Tenneco Automotive Operating Company has been issued 20 safety and health violations by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The automotive exhaust systems and components manufacturer was issued the violations for exposing workers to hexavalent chromium, a harm chemical which can lead to nose, throat and lung damage.

The violations occurred the company’s manufacturing plant in Hartwell, Georgia USA.

A division of Tenneco, a global transportation components manufacturer*, Tenneco Automotive Operating Company will have to pay proposed fines totaling US$90,000.

In a statement OSHA’s Atlanta-East area office director Bill Fulcher said that hexavalent chromium was a well-recognised work place chemical hazard and cautioned U.S. manufacturers that the department would not tolerate breaches lightly..

"There is ample information alerting employers to the hazards posed by hexavalent chromium. OSHA will not tolerate companies that expose employees to this and other well-known workplace hazards," Fulcher said.

The department cited 17 serious safety and health violations at the Hartwell facility.

Under the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 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.

Serious violations relating to hexavalent chromium include:

  • failing to prevent exposure beyond OSHA’s authorized limits;
  • not developing a plan to limit exposure, not providing a separate storage area or change area for personal protective equipment used by workers;
  • failing to consult a physician about the chromium exposures, not maintaining an eyewash station;
  • failing to provide clean work surfaces free from chromium accumulations; and
  • failing to dispose of waste using a sealed container.

Remaining serious violations include:

  • failing to evaluate and prevent workers entering confined spaces from doing so without required permits;
  • train workers on lockout/tagout procedures;
  • implement a lockout/tagout program for energy sources to prevent machines from accidentally starting up during servicing and maintenance;
  • provide guards on machines and provide a cover to an electrical panel.

The company also received three other-than-serious violations. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. No monetary penalties were assessed.

The violations include:

  • mounting an outlet and switch box on a structural support column;
  • blocking an electrical disconnect; and
  • failing to require employees to practice entering confined spaces since 2009.

U.S. manufacturing employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees as prescribed under the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

* Tenneco is a multi-million dollar manufacturing company with more than 80 facilities on six continents with corporate offices in Lake Forest, Illinois.


Image: Tenneco

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