Berry Global Group Inc. is facing proposed fines of nearly $370,000 regarding operations at its Sterling, Mass., plant and the "severe burns" suffered by an employee in September, the federal government said.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing the financial punishment after determining a worker was sprayed with hot liquid plastic while changing a screen on a plastic bag extruder Sept. 23, 2021.
"Following its inspection in Sterling, OSHA found that the company failed to establish and use lockout/tag-out procedures or eliminate employee's exposure to protect workers from the extruder machine while they serviced or maintained it, did not train workers in lockout/tag-out procedures and did not conduct periodic inspections to ensure procedures were followed," the agency alleges. "OSHA also found that the company did not provide appropriate personal protective equipment to ensure that employees were protected when servicing the extruder."
Berry has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to contest the findings.
"Berry Global is currently reviewing information it received from OSHA pertaining to an unfortunate incident that occurred at its Sterling, Massachusetts, facility in September 2021. The safety of Berry employees is the company's top priority, and the issues raised by OSHA are being taken seriously through the course of a full investigation," the company said in a March 23 statement.
"Berry Global is committed to ensuring employee safety within its facilities. This commitment includes an ongoing investment in employee training and engineering safety enhancements to machines and equipment and has resulted in an OSHA incident rate significantly better than the industry average over the past 10 year," the company said.
The company also pointed out that workers completed 30,000 safety courses involving 860,000 hours of training last year. "Courses included — but were not limited to — risk identification, lockout/tag-out and electrical training," the company said.
"Until Berry solidifies the most appropriate course of action, surrounding the aforementioned incident, the company has no further comment," the company said.
OSHA, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, wants to fine Berry $145,027 because the employee performed screen changes on extruder lines without being provided a balaclava and welding jacket for protection. "The employer's hazard assessment had identified the need for a balaclava and welding jacket to be provided to employees when performing screen changes," OSHA said.
OSHA also wants to fine the company another $145,027, alleging "On and before Sept. 23, 2021, and continuing through at least March 1, 2022, the employer had not developed, documented and utilized energy control procedures for employees performing screen changes on extruder line 16, to protect employees from uncontrolled thermal energy hazards."
A proposed penalty of $79,761 faces Berry, OSHA said while alleging the company "did not conduct a periodic inspection of energy control procedures at least annually to ensure that the procedures and the requirements of this standard were being followed."
"Berry Global Inc. could have prevented this worker's injuries if the company had followed required safeguards," OSHA Area Director Mary Hoye said in a statement.