Col-Pump facing large fine for noise violations

COLUMBIANA – A city plant is facing almost $60,000 in fines after being cited by the U.S. Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) for violations.

It’s not the first time the plant has been cited.

OSHA spokesman Scott Allen said Wednesday that in 2009 the Col-Pump Co. on East Railroad Street paid $2,250 in fines and penalties for seven citations, six of which were considered “serious” by the administration. The plant was originally facing $6,925 in fines for the violations but paid less as a result of reaching an informal settlement.

Allen said the company has requested an informal hearing on Jan. 23 for the most recent citations that include willful and repeat violations.

He explained the company is facing significantly more in fines now because it is clear some of the violations could have been avoided at the facility.

“Penalties increase drastically when you have repeat violations and willful violations. A willful violation is basically the highest type of violation you can get,” he said.

A press release issued by the U.S. Department of Labor this week said the administration conducted an inspection at the facility on Sept. 14 after receiving a complaint about the lack of an effective hearing protection program.

During the inspection the administration found 10 health and safety violations and of those, two were considered willful violations and one a repeat violation.

The two willful violations involved failing to establish a baseline audiogram within six months of an employees’ first exposure to noise above the action level of 85 decibels and to provide annual audiograms to workers exposed to noise levels at or above allowable levels, the release stated.

Howard Eberts, OSHA’s area director in Cleveland, said in the release that the company’s failure to reduce noise exposure and document employee hearing proficiency shows a “lack of concern for the safety and health of workers.”

The company was also cited for failing to implement administrative and engineering controls to lower exposure to noise in the grinding area of the facility – a repeat violation from 2009.

Two serious violations found involved failing to maintain ladders in a safe condition and ensure machine guarding was affixed to a sand mixer system. Violations are considered serious when there is a “substantial” probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard the company is aware, or should already be aware of, according to the release.

The plant faces fines of $56,880 for the 10 violations. The Sept. 14 inspection was the ninth inspection conducted at the facility over the years.

Allen said if the company doesn’t agree with the administration’s findings, Col-Pump can contest them and the matter would go before an independent occupational and safety review commission. An administrative law judge would then determine the validity of the citations.

Paul Rance, co-owner of Col-Pump, told the Journal’s news partner WKBN on Monday that the gray cast iron foundry is working with OSHA and that employees were never in danger.