A six-month long investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ended Tuesday with fines to the tune of $283,000 against Exel, the company that operates a packing facility for Hershey Co. in Palmyra, Pa.
The inspection followed a complaint filed on behalf of a group of foreign students who were performing summer jobs under the Department of State’s J-1 student visa program. In the complaint, the students described being asked to lift and carry boxes that weighted more than 60 pounds, resulting in neck, back and arm injuries.
OSHA inspectors cited Exel for six willful violations for failing to record injuries and illnesses and failing to implement an effective hearing conservation program.
“Nothing useful can be learned from an unrecorded injury,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels in a press release. “Accurate records provide critical information to employers and employees about the cause and prevention of work-related injuries. The law requires employers to maintain complete and accurate records because, without these, it is more difficult to prevent additional injuries and illnesses from occurring.”
OSHA also fined SHS Staffing Solutions, a temporary staffing subcontractor, for failing to provide the student workers with lockout/tagout training.
The complaint was filed by the National Guestworker Alliance, a membership organization of guestworkers, around the time when hundreds of foreign students organized a walkout to protest working conditions at the facility.
In an interview with the New York Times a spokeswoman for Exel, Lynn Anderson, said the company would contest the citations.
“I think it’s important to understand that this is one area of one site,” she said, “and the majority of the citations involve record-keeping,” she said.
Keeping a log of work-related illness and injuries and posting a summary of these logs is required of many companies that employ more than 10 people and is a critical element of a complete workplace safety and health management system.
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