Government safety regulators have issued fines and citations to several plastics companies for violating COVID-19 workplace safety rules, moves that have come as the new administration is calling for stepped-up enforcement in factories and job sites.
The Jan. 21 executive order from President Joe Biden, issued on the first full day of his government, calls for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to launch a national COVID-19 enforcement effort and examine whether tougher rules are needed.
It comes as several plastics firms have been cited in recent weeks for violating coronavirus standards.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Jan. 22, for example, that it was issuing a fine against Plastic Development Group LLC and citations against United Resin Corporation, in both cases in response to employee complaints.
As well, a Pennsylvania newspaper reported in early January that OSHA officials there had sent a letter to a Hilex-Poly Co. LLC plastic bag making plant in Milesburg, outlining violations including not enforcing mask-wearing and not properly separating employees diagnosed with COVID-19.
And in Texas, government safety inspectors announced in late November that they were fining film and bag maker Poly-America Inc. more than $23,000 for several coronavirus-related violations.
OSHA announced the fines against Grand Prairie, Texas-based Poly-America in November as part of longer list of companies it said were not taking adequate action to protect workplaces from COVID-19 risks.
OSHA did not provide details of the violations it said it found at Poly-America but noted in general that its coronavirus citations can be issued for things like not having a written respiratory protection program or training staff in use of PPE, as well as related violations of general OSHA standards.
Poly-America did not respond to a request for comment. An online OSHA database appeared to say the company was contesting the violations, a standard practice with OSHA citations.
In the case of Pennsylvania, the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa., reported Jan. 6 that it had obtained a letter OSHA sent to the Hilex-Poly plant on Jan. 5.
The letter alleged that the company had not enforced mask and social distance requirements, that it had not properly disinfected the facility and that it was not separating employees diagnosed with COVID-19.
Novolex, Hilex-Poly's parent company, did not respond to a request for comment but a spokeswoman told the newspaper that it was "confident that our policies and procedures are in line with CDC guidelines designed to protect the health and safety of employees."