Formed Fiber Technologies Inc., based in Auburn, has been hit with nearly $1 million in fines after federal officials issued 14 safety citations at the company’s plant in Sidney, Ohio.

Officials from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the Sidney plant was cited after falsely claiming in 2013 that previous safety issues had been corrected — issues OSHA said put employees at risk of hazards, including amputation and burns.

“After providing false documentation and making false representations claiming that previously cited hazards related to hydraulic presses had been corrected,” according to an OSHA news release. “Formed Fiber Technologies LL has been issued 14 safety citations, including willful and repeat citations, as well as a notice of failure to abate with proposed fines totaling $816,500.”

Whether the penalties will effect operations at the Auburn plant remains to be seen. Attempts to reach a local Formed Fiber spokesperson was not immediately successful. 

The company manufactures nonwoven fabrics and polyester staple fibers for the automotive industry. It employs 750 workers, with 340 at the Sidney facility. Formed Fiber Technologies also operates Color-Fi Inc. in Sumter, S.C.

OSHA initiated the Ohio plant inspection as a follow-up to its Severe Violators Enforcement Program, according to the release.

The plant, which produces motor vehicle interior trimmings for automotive manufacturers, including Toyota and General Motors, was issued one failure to abate, nine willful and four repeat safety violations for continuously exposing employees to amputation risks and other hazards.

“Formed Fiber Technologies apparently decided that production was more important than ensuring its workers’ safety. They provided false abatement documentation to OSHA. They knew how hazardous these machines were without proper safeguards and also knew exactly how to fix those hazards,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA will not tolerate such blatant disregard for worker safety.”

According to the news release:

OSHA’s January follow-up inspection found that abatement documentation Formed Fiber provided to OSHA in December 2013 was false and that employees had been exposed to unguarded machines and unsafe maintenance procedures well after the employer’s abatement claims. Failing to protect workers from dangerous machinery is among the most frequently cited OSHA violations and injuries involving this type of machinery often result in death or permanent disability.

Nine willful citations were issued for failing to prevent the startup of multiple hydraulic thermoforming presses, laminator machines and robot cells while workers were performing setup, service and maintenance inside the machines. The company also failed to develop proper lockout/tag out procedures and encouraged workers to use unsafe methods to stop machines for maintenance.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Four repeat violations cited also involve failing to train workers on how to properly stop machines before service and maintenance, which continuously exposed machine operators to laceration, amputation, burns and having parts of the machine strike or crush them. The company failed to have identifying information on devices to indicate hazards.

A repeat violation exists, OSHA said, when an employer has been previously cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

OSHA previously cited Formed Fiber Technologies in October 2013 for 11 violations, many involving the same standards. The company entered into a settlement agreement that included terms involving the abatement of hazards and paying a penalty of $69,000. Prior to October 2013, the company had been inspected by OSHA 16 times at their facilities nationwide, resulting in 80 violations being cited.

The current citations may be viewed at www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/FormedFiberTechnologies_956889_07_15_14.pdf.

Formed Fiber Technologies has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.


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