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Houston pipemaker faces nearly $1M in OSHA fines

In Texas and elsewhere, companies have the responsibility to follow safety rules and regulations that protect workers from unnecessary danger. When companies fail to follow these rules and regulations, they can be fined heftily.

Following a tip from an employee of Piping Technology and Products in Houston, Texas, federal regulators found 30 workplace safety violations resulting in $1 million in proposed fines.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Houston company exposed its employees to such risks as injuries and amputations due to dangerous machinery at the unsafe work environment.

OSHA revealed that this isn't the first time Piping Technology has been cited for such violations. In 1986, 1994 and 2005, it received warnings focusing on the need to guard band saws in operation during production.

OSHA's statement said an employee reported the company earlier in the year for having unguarded presses within the company's facility, as well as no brakes on overhead cranes.

This time, OSHA's investigation found the company liable for committing 17 "willful violations," which are said to have been committed while blatantly ignoring the law.

The company was cited for providing no guards on band saws, and failing to put barriers on hazardous energy sources on various pieces of equipment prior to performing maintenance procedures on them.

Each of the citations received by the company from OSHA carry a $70,000 penalty, equaling to a $910,000 total. The majority of the violations proposed by OSHA's fine were willful, but the agency also cited 17 additional serious violations, which OSHA said could have resulted in death and the company should have known about.

As a result of these violations, the company has been placed in OSHA's "Severe Violator Enforcement Program." This makes follow-up inspections a requirement in order to ensure the company is in full compliance of the law.

Ultimately, the company is lucky a worker was not injured or killed or it could also be facing a serious personal injury lawsuit.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "OSHA Whacks Pipemaker for $1 Million in Fines," Cameron Langford, Dec. 30, 2011

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