7 workers injured in 2013 incident; Cooper Power Systems cited by OSHA

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SOUTH MILWAUKEE (WITI) —  Following injuries to seven workers at Cooper Power Systems LLC, including chemical burns to the skin and irritation to their respiratory tracts requiring urgent medical treatment, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the company for six violations, including two willful violations.

The workers were injured after exposure to an acid mixture while cleaning a spill that occurred at the facility on Oct. 30, 2013.

The company was cited for failing to provide workers with required protective equipment to prevent exposure and failure to provide required training in hazardous material clean-up procedures.

The citations carry proposed penalties of $166,000.

“Cooper Power Systems showed a complete disregard for the health and safety of its workers when they made them perform a cleanup of a dangerous chemical without providing them with required training and protective gear,” said Nick Walters, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago. “These seven employees were needlessly injured because this company was more interested in a fast cleanup than protecting the people who work for them.”

Approximately 15-20 gallons of phosphoric/sulfuric acid were released from an over pressurized hose at the facility, which manufactures electrical power delivery products.

OSHA’s investigation found that employees were directed to perform clean-up operations despite the company’s written policy to bring in qualified outside services for this type of work.

Following the cleanup, the employees started to experience symptoms of exposure to acid, including shortness of breath, headache, skin irritation and burns.

The respiratory distress required urgent medical care.

OSHA has cited two willful violations for directing employees to respond to an acid spill without conducting a hazard evaluation, lack of personal protective equipment and failing to train workers in emergency response procedures.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Cooper Power Systems was also cited for four serious safety violations including failing to develop an emergency response plan; provide decontamination and first aid treatment for responders; and provide respiratory and personal protective equipment for use during cleanup.

An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

Cooper Power Systems has been previously cited by OSHA 11 times since 1989.

Cooper Power Systems has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Cooper Power Systems is a division of Waukesha-based Eaton’s Electrical Sector, which produces a range of power delivery products for use in the utility, commercial, industrial, mining, renewable energy and other markets.

The South Milwaukee plant employs about 480 workers. Eaton has approximately 102,000 employees worldwide and sells products in more than 175 countries.