HARTWELL - Tenneco Automotive Operating Co. Inc.'s Hartwell manufacturing plant has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 16 safety and health violations. OSHA opened an inspection in February in response to a complaint alleging hazards. Proposed penalties total $79,300.
OSHA officials say some of the 14 serious violations involve a failure to protect employees from exposure to hexavalent chromium, including ensuring that employees working with and around the toxic chemical compound removed their contaminated clothing and showered before exiting the facility after a shift. Management also did not provide free medical surveillance for employees exhibiting symptoms related to hexavalent chromium. Other serious violations include tripping and fall hazards, as well as inadequate rules regarding respirator usage. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The citations carry $78,200 in proposed penalties.
Workers who breathe hexavalent chromium compounds at their jobs for many years may be at increased risk of developing lung cancer. Breathing high levels of hexavalent chromium can irritate or damage the nose, throat and lungs. Irritation or damage to the eyes and skin can occur after contact with hexavalent chromium in high concentrations or for a prolonged period of time.
Two other-than-serious violations involve improper record keeping in the OSHA log and allowing a temporary electrical extension cord to be used as permanent wiring. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. The citations carry $1,100 in proposed penalties.
"Tenneco needs to take proactive steps to halt these safety and health hazards. OSHA will not tolerate employers who fail in their duty to keep their workers safe," said William Fulcher, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office.
Tenneco Automotive Operating Co. Inc. is a division of Tenneco Inc., a global transportation components manufacturer headquartered in Lake Forest, Ill., that has more than 80 facilities on six continents. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.