July 10, 2012

Cives Steel faces OSHA fines for safety violations

Kennebec Journal Staff

AUGUSTA -- Cives Steel is facing $132,000 in federal fines for alleged safety violations at its city plant.

The steel fabricator has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for electrical, crushing and laceration hazards at its plant on Lipman Road, violations the agency alleges include "willful, repeat, and serious violations of workplace safety standards."

The violations include a single citation with a proposed $70,000 fine. In that violation, according to a news release from OSHA, inspectors found that maintenance employees were not supplied with and did not use personal protective equipment to protect themselves against the hazards of electric shock, arc flash and arc blast while performing diagnostic work on electrical equipment. The release says OSHA considers that a willful violation, which it defines as a violation committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

"The sizable fines proposed in this case reflect the severity and recurring nature of a number of these hazards," William Coffin, OSHA's area director for Maine, said in the news release. "For the safety of its workers, this employer must take effective and expeditious action to eliminate these conditions and prevent their recurrence."

Joanna P. Hawkins, a spokesperson for the federal Department of Labor, said Monday that no injuries or deaths resulted from the cited violations; but she added there were hazards that posed a serious and potentially fatal risk to workers.

The violations were the result of an inspection OSHA's Augusta area office began in January. The inspections took place under a program targeting workplaces with a rate of workdays lost because of injuries and illnesses that is higher than the industry average.

Cives Steel officials could not be reached immediately for comment late Monday, either in Augusta or at Cives' headquarters in Georgia.

Another electrical hazard, which drew a "repeat" citation and fine of $22,000, was the use of extension cords as a substitute for fixed wiring, a violation OSHA officials said was similar to one at another Cives' plant in New York in 2010.

Other alleged violations, together totaling $40,000 in fines, were issued for crushing hazards stemming from the Augusta plant's failure to label and test the weight capacity of an in-house fabricated lifting device used to lift metal plates weighing up to 900 pounds, laceration hazards from improper chain saw use, the potential for falls by workers standing on raw and fabricated steel products, an incomplete confined space entry program, inadequate egress from a mezzanine, and electrical hazards.

Cives Steel has 15 business days to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings.

Cives Steel has about 150 workers at its Augusta plant, company officials had said previously, and the firm's work includes fabricating 4,000 tons of structural steel to frame the new MaineGeneral Medical Center hospital under construction in north Augusta.

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