Fort Worth, Texas-based pipe extruder WL Plastics Manufacturing LLC paid a fine of $6,399 to the U.S. Department of Labor for violating child labor law after a 17-year-old worker was injured operating a forklift on the night shift at its Titusville, Pa., plant.
Federal law prohibits youths under age 18 from operating hazardous equipment such as forklifts, scissor lifts and dough mixers.
The probe into company operations also revealed that the high density polyethylene pipe producer failed to pay proper overtime wages to 60 employees in the form of safety bonuses, which violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The division recovered a total of $10,361 in back wages and liquidated damages for the affected workers.
In all, the company faced penalties and costs totaling $16,760.
Company officials did not immediately reply to emails seeking a response to the child labor law violation.
WL Plastics acquired the Titusville operation in December 2021 when WL Plastics bought substantially all of the assets of Charter Plastics to expand its geographical footprint and product offering.
The child labor violation came to light after a young man was hurt using a forklift. The incident happened about 10 p.m. April 3, 2022, according to Joanna Hawkins, deputy regional director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Public Affairs in Philadelphia.
Hawkins described the teen's injury as a "sprained ankle from stepping down from the forklift."
No hospital care was needed, she added.
This is the second recent case of a plastics company violating child labor laws. In October, SL Alabama, an automotive plastics injection molder, faced more than $47,000 in combined state and federal fines for hiring a 13-year-old and two 15-year-olds to work at a plant in Alexander City, Ala.
The company, which supplies headlights and mirrors for Hyundai vehicles, reportedly used a staffing firm that brought the minors into the plant.
The U.S. Department of Labor established federal child labor rules to ensure young peoples' work is safe and does not jeopardize their health, well-being or educational opportunities.
The Federal Labor Standards Act sets the minimum age of 18 years for any nonagricultural occupations deemed to be "particularly hazardous" for 16- and 17-year-old.
The rules are enforced by the Wage and Hours Division, which says every year tens of thousands of U.S. workers under the age of 18 are injured on the job. One third of the injuries require emergency room treatment.
Twenty-two workplace fatalities for workers aged 17 and under were reported in 2017, which is the latest statistic available.
Currently, there are 17 hazardous occupation orders ranging from a ban on youth working where explosives are manufactured and stored to coal mining, logging, sawmilling and excavation work.
Founded in 2000, WL Plastics employs about 640 people to produce HDPE pipe and related products for the oil, gas, mining, industrial and municipal water markets.
With estimated annual sales of $450 million, WL Plastics is the 15th largest pipe, profile and tubing extruder in North America, according to Plastics News data.
The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ineos USA LLC, which does business as Ineos Olefins & Polymers USA and is part of the Ineos Group, a manufacturer of petrochemicals, specialty chemicals, and oil products.