U.S. foam manufacturer Renosol Seating LLC is being investigated following allegations that its workers are at risk of asthma from toluene diisocyanates (TDI) exposure at its plant in Selma, Ala., the U.S. Department of Labor has confirmed.
The plant’s owner is Tier 1 automotive supplier Lear Corp. and it produces foam-based seating for brands including BMW, Ford, General Motors and Hyundai at the wholly-owned Selma plant.
The complaint is the ninth that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has officially recorded against Renosol plants since 2004. The latest complaint about Selma was made in May.
It followed allegations of TDI leaks and worker evacuations at the site early in May. According to an NBC News report, one Selma worker claims the chemical leaks caused her asthma.
Following the news report, OSHA inspected the site. This was carried out alongside a consultant appointed by Lear.
Lear spokesman Mel Stephens said that in all its facilities “the health and safety of our workers is a top priority.”
He added: “In response to employee concerns related to alleged TDI exposure in the Lear Selma plant, Lear has conducted a comprehensive internal investigation.
“Based on our own internal investigation, two separate independent environmental evaluations, as well as a thorough OSHA evaluation, we have concluded that the environment in the Selma plant is safe for our employees,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bob Ludeuka, executive director at the Polyurethane Foam Association, said “This is very unusual.” PFA has monitored industrial asthma across the U.S. flexible foam industry for many years and found it to be very low.
Stephens continued: “At the Selma facility, we have never had an approved workers’ compensation claim for a chemical-related occupational illness.
“Employees have the right to contact OSHA regarding their concerns. We do encourage employees to bring concerns to their supervisor prior to contacting OSHA. In every instance where we are made aware of concerns, we take it seriously and thoroughly investigate the issue and work to resolve the concern as soon as possible,” he added.
This latest investigation follows several at Renosol plants by OSHA over the past decade. In March 2007, following a health-related hazard complaint to OSHA, the organization logged six violations at the Selma plant and issued fines.
Meanwhile, a ballot to decide the Selma site’s union status was cancelled in June 2014. Documents filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by the UAW trade union allege coercive action by Renosol management. The ballot has been postponed.
Stephens said the launch of “intensive union organizing campaign” at the Selma facility in April had sparked complaints in the media about the potential for TDI exposure at Selma from a small group of the site’s workforce.
An online petition addressed to Renosol, Lear and Hyundai is specifically calling on the companies act to “protect the health of workers,” and has been signed by more than 12,000 people.
In response to the petition’s call for worker health monitoring, Stephens said: “Workers are free to come forward for a medical evaluation if they wish to make a workers compensation claim however, so far, none have done so.”
A complete version of this story is available at utech-polyurethane.com/news-information.