While federal regulators were investigating unsafe working conditions at a Salina, Kansas, battery manufacturing plant, the middle finger of a 32-year-old worker was amputated by an unguarded machine, prompting a second probe.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Milton, Georgia-based Exide Technologies with one willful and 10 serious safety and health violations based on its findings from a Dec. 3 injury inspection.
Exide specializes in smart-battery development and advanced materials and process design at research facilities in the U.S., Germany, Italy and Spain. The company employs about 620 workers at the Salina facility and 5,000 globally.
OSHA’s December probe also resulted in the agency issuing Exide Technologies a hazard alert letter warning the company for its failure to implement a heat stress program at the Salinas plant.
“Exide Technologies is exposing workers to dangerous electrical and machine hazards that can cause devastating and life-changing injuries like the one this worker suffered,” said Judy Freeman, OSHA’s area director in Wichita. “While working as a strip caster, this man joined 65 other Kansas workers who, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, suffered preventable, workplace amputation injuries in 2015. Exide needs to clean up its act and take immediate action to fix these hazards.”
OSHA investigators found the worker’s finger was amputated when his hand became caught in a lead chopping machine’s unguarded belts, pulleys, and gears.
Investigators also found electrical components deteriorating from exposure to sulfuric acid vapors and pools of acid and water accumulating on the floors creating holes and putting workers at risk of tripping and slipping.
The company also failed to develop a confined-space program to protect employees working in tight, hard-to-access places, and failed to both train and monitor employees working in confined spaces.
Other violations found concerned the company’s failure to label chemical containers, failure to train workers on how to properly use chemicals, and exit paths that were obstructed.
OSHA proposed total penalties of $127,300 for the violations.