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OSHA Cites Walter Coke Inc. for Safety Violations

Aug. 25, 2010
Repeat violations carry $171,500 in penalties
Foundry coke supplier Walter Coke Inc. has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for exposing workers to safety violations at its Birmingham, AL, plant. OSHA is alleging three workplace safety violations, and proposing $171,500 in penalties against the company, an operating unit of Walter Energy Inc. The plant produces high-carbon coke for blast furnaces and foundries in the steel industry. In February, OSHA conducted an inspection of the plant in line with the 2009 Site-Specific Targeting program, which targets workplaces where the highest rates of injuries and illness have occurred. "Prior to this inspection, the company was made aware of what needed to be addressed to protect its workers from injury, but management did not act and continues to put employees at risk," stated Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's Birmingham area director. "Managers should not wait any longer to implement OSHA standards to protect their employees." Walter Coke was cited for three repeat violations that carry proposed penalties of $99,000. OSHA alleges Walter Coke failed to complete annual inspections of the lockout/tagout procedures for energy control, and to provide proper machine guarding to protect the operator and other workers from rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Also, Walter Coke was cited with 27 serious safety violations carrying $72,500 in proposed penalties. These include fall and trip hazards, blocked fire extinguishers exposing workers to fire risks, lack of proper railings around stairs and floor openings, failing to provide an emergency shut-off for dispensing gasoline, confined space deficiencies, toxic chemical storage and poor housekeeping. Walter Coke was given 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.