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Workers at organic weed killer plant exposed to amputation, electrical risks: OSHA

David Pendered
grass The makers of an organic weed killer contends it is a natural solution. OSHA contends workers in the manufacturing plant are at risk of amputation and other hazards. Credit: David Pendered

By David Pendered

Workers at a Gainesville chemical plant that says it produces organic weed and bug killers were exposed to conditions that threatened amputations, fire and electrical hazards, according to a citation from the federal workplace safety agency – which critics contends has been hobbled by the Trump administration.

grass

The makers of an organic weed killer contends it is a natural solution. OSHA contends workers in the manufacturing plant are at risk of amputation and other hazards. Credit: David Pendered

The citation comes as the number of fatal injuries incurred on the job increased from 2015 to 2017, according to the latest available figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics – from 180 job-related fatalities in 2015 to 194 job-related fatalities in 2017.

OSHA cited Kittrich Corp., operating as Avenger Products LLC, with six serious violations, two repeat violations and one listed as “other than serious.”

Avenger produces organic chemicals for home and commercial use. The first component discovered was citrus oil, according to a page on the company’s website that says the company’s mission is:

  • “To provide organic and natural solutions for all lawn, gardens, for home, business or commercial use.
  • “We are all stewards of the earth, and if we can use natural and organic solutions to maintain the safety for people, animals and the earth, why wouldn’t we?”

Worker safety was at risk to formulate the company’s Avenger product, according to OSHA’s statement. The company was cited, “for exposing employees to amputation, fire, and electrical hazards.” The alleged violations were spotted in a July 30 site visit and issued Dec. 4.

The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalty before OSHA issues a final order. The order cannot be appealed to any court, according to the citation.

Total penalties amount to $90,081, according to OSHA.

The citations include:

  • Serious – “On or about 7/30/2019, throughout the production area, employees performing work on equipment including but not limited to the cappers and fillers were exposed to struck by, caught in, & amputation hazards where specific procedures were not utilized in the control of potential energy such as but not limited to pneumatic and electrical.”
  • Repeat – “An educational program was not provided for all employees to familiarize them with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and th hazards involved with incipient stage firefighting: On or about 7/30/2019 where the employer has an expectation of workers to fight incipient level fires failed to provide training to employees hired after 2/22/2019.”
  • Repeat – “One or more methods of machine guarding was not provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards…. [O]perators and workers walking by the rear of the machine were exposed to amputation and caught in hazards where the machinery was not completely guarded.”

The citation comes amid ongoing scrutiny of workplace safety enforcement under the Trump administration’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

One criticism involves a decline in the number of inspectors working for OSHA, according to a March 14 report by the National Employment Law Project. A concern is that a drop in enforcement action will lead to a sense of complacency among employers, the report observed.

 

 

David Pendered
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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