A McDuffie County industry faces fines of up to $135,000 after being cited for 24 occupational health and safety violations by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA).
The action by the governmental agency was handed down last Wednesday against HP Pelzer Automotive Systems, Inc., located at 1884 Warrenton Highway, near Thomson.
A health inspection of the plant revealed seven "serious" violations resulting in penalties of $32,000, according to an OSHA press release. Such health violations include the company reportedly allowing combustible dust to accumulate and not protecting employees from noise hazards, as well as exposing employees to an airborne concentration of formaldehyde.
HP Pelzer Automobile Systems, Inc., which began production operations in 1997 at its Thomson plant, also was cited for 15 additional violations after a subsequent safety inspection discovered other "serious" problems. Those violations included having a lack of guardrails, improper lockout/tag-out procedures to prevent accidental start-up of machinery, electrical hazards and employees using defective equipment.
Tony Brenz, chief financial officer of HP Pelzer Automotive Systems, Inc., who was reached at the plant's headquarters office in Troy, Michigan last Thursday, told The McDuffie Mirror that company officials received notice of the OSHA citations the day before.
"HP Pelzer is deeply concerned by these claims as we always take employee safety issues very seriously," Mr. Brenz said. "While we are still investigating the matters raised by OSHA, we have put together an action plan to address each one of these items, so that they are permanently resolved. We have also put into place interim measures to ensure employee safety. We plan to meet with OSHA representatives in order to confirm that our plan addresses these issues and is consistent with our shared goal plan to provide a safe and healthy work environment."
The company has 15 business days from the notice of the citations to contest them and the proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission," according to Gei-Thae Breezly, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office. "OSHA conducted this inspection as part of its national emphasis program on combustible dust. ... No employee needs to risk their health and their life by working under these conditions."