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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed $255,150 in fines against Sturm Ruger & Company Inc. for 60 alleged violations of safety and health standards identified during the agency's inspections of the firearms manufacturer's Newport, N.H., plant conducted between November 2008 and May 2009.
"Our inspections identified a large number of mechanical, respirator protection, electrical, lead, fire, explosive and other hazards that must be effectively and continuously addressed to protect the workers at this plant from potentially deadly or disabling injuries and illnesses now and in the future," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director in New Hampshire.
OSHA found that the company failed to guard rotating parts on drill presses, sanding and polishing machines despite its knowledge that employees were exposed to severe or fatal injuries if they came in contact with the rotating parts. As a result, OSHA has issued the company one willful citation with $63,000 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
Additional safety hazards include the lack of spark detectors or suppression systems to minimize fire and explosion hazards in ventilation systems that collect combustible wood and metal dust; allowing combustible dust to accumulate; unguarded floors and platforms; lack of eyewashes and adequate personal protective equipment; inadequate procedures, equipment and training to lock out machines' power sources; improper storage of compressed gas cylinders; damaged, improperly used or ungrounded electrical equipment; additional unguarded machinery; and deficiencies with paint spray booths, confined space rescue, compressed air, forklifts and the transfer of flammable liquids.
The health inspection identified employees exposed to excess levels of lead dust; inadequate lead monitoring, training, hygiene, cleaning and disposal methods; inappropriate selection of respirators for lead; improper respirator fit-testing and use; no medical evaluations for employees using respirators; no refitting and retraining for employees who experienced a hearing threshold shift; and unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals.
These conditions resulted in the issuance of 55 serious citations with $188,550 in fines. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.
The company also has been fined $3,600 and issued four other-than-serious citations for inadequate recordkeeping.
Sturm Ruger has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with the area director or contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.