The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing fines of $177,000 against plastic packaging firm International Cushioning Co. LLC, after a worker was hospitalized with serious burns and investigators said the company did not properly report the incident.
In an Aug. 15 news release, OSHA said it learned about the February accident at the company's Fremont, Ohio, factory from the local fire department, and it publicly questioned the company's workplace safety culture.
"This company must address what appears to be a workplace culture where employee safety is not emphasized and workers are exposed to serious injuries," said Todd Jensen, area director of OSHA's Toledo, Ohio, office.
In the Feb. 10 incident, the agency said a 25-year-old worker was removing polyethylene foam from an extrusion line when static discharge ignited isobutane, a colorless gas released during production, and the heated foam melted on the employee's arm, causing second-degree burns.
The company, based in Marlboro, N.J., did not respond to a request for comment.
OSHA said its investigators found 25 violations of federal safety rules in two separate inspections, one in February for the incident and a follow-up health inspection in early March.
Those alleged violations include failing to report an injury within 24 hours, as required, operating machinery without safety guards, not following lockout/tagout regulations and failing to properly train employees, OSHA said.
"A young worker might have been spared these serious injuries if International Cushioning Co. met specific federal standards for the safe operation of foam manufacturing equipment," Jensen said in a statement. "During our initial inspection in Fremont, inspectors found additional issues and identified more than two dozen violations and related hazards the company must address before other employees are harmed."
OSHA said it learned about the accident in a referral from the local fire department "alleging fire hazards due to poor housekeeping of combustibles and flammables."
The agency said its inspectors found that industrial fans positioned on the foam line were not properly rated for use in hazardous environments and that the company failed to provide workers with spark-resistant hand tools for fire ignition situations.
International Cushioning also failed to provide adequate personal protection equipment for workers' hands, arms and feet, OSHA said. Additionally, the company was cited for not having a hearing conservation program or an emergency action plan.
According to its website, International Cushioning makes several types of paper and plastic packaging products, including PE foam, polystyrene foam and loose fill packaging, as well as expanded polystyrene beads.
The company has manufacturing operations or facilities in Indiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas, according to its website. OSHA said it opened the Fremont facility in 2020.
These are not the first violations OSHA said it filed against the Fremont plant.
Agency records show that OSHA fined the Ohio operation $18,000 last year for violations of regulations around fire extinguishers, hazard communications, general machinery standards and lockout/tagout, after it opened an investigation in June 2021 in response to a complaint.
The company has 15 days to formally respond to OSHA.