OSHA Hits U.S. Pipe for More Safety Violations

Citation during “enhanced enforcement” leads to $236,000 in penalties

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited U.S. Pipe and Foundry for safety violations, and proposes penalties that total $236,000. The violations were discovered during an August 2005 "enhanced enforcement" inspection at the company’s foundry in Birmingham, AL,, which was the result of U.S. Pipe’s prior record of safety violations.

OSHA uses a policy of enhanced enforcement policy to monitor conditions at plant sites of employers that previously have earned the most severe citations. According to this policy, OSHA may conduct inspections at sites other than the one where the original high-gravity citations were issued, and may seek remedies that include federal court enforcement of citations.

A fatal accident at U.S. Pipe’s Bessemer, AL, foundry in 2004 was attributed to a missing safety latch for an overhead crane. The “enhanced enforcement” inspection at the Birmingham foundry involved a similar violation, leading to a repeat citation and penalty of $25,000.

Subsequently, OSHA issued eight repeat citations, with proposed penalties totaling $152,500. These are described as involving “a lack of eye wash facilities; unguarded floor openings; confined space and electrical hazards; lack of machinery guards, and improper storage of compressed gas cylinders.”

In addition, U.S. Pipe was charged with 19 citations with proposed penalties that total $58,500, for alleged safety and health hazards that exposed workers to falls, amputations, electrocutions, hearing loss, eye injuries, and respiratory illnesses.

According to OSHA’s Birmingham area director Roberto Sanchez, "Despite OSHA's enforcement and outreach efforts, this company has continued to disregard their basic obligation under the Occupational Safety and Health Act."

U.S. Pipe has 15 days to contest the citations and proposed penalties.

U.S. Pipe is a unit of Walter Industries’ Water Products business. Walter recently registered the subsidiary with the Securities Exchange Commission for a common stock offering as part of a planned spin-off of the business.

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