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Natural Flavors Inc. is facing $60,400 in fines for 12 workplace safety and health violations at its Newark, NJ, facility, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA began its inspection after receiving information that workers potentially suffered exposure to diacetyl, a chemical used in flavorings.

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The inspection confirmed workers suffered overexposure to diacetyl, a serious violation cited with a $2,800 penalty. Studies have linked exposure to diacetyl to the development of permanent lung damage, including the rare lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans.

“As early as 2004, the flavoring manufacturing industry has been aware that its workers who are overexposed to diacetyl on the job have developed severe, life-threatening lung disease. It is outrageous that Natural Flavors would expose workers to this debilitating chemical without taking the necessary steps to properly assess exposure and protect its employees,” said Robert D. Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

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One willful violation, with a penalty of $28,000, was for the company’s failure to adequately identify and evaluate respiratory hazards. 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.

Two repeat violations, with a penalty of $9,600, reflect the company’s failure to implement a site-specific respiratory protection program and update material safety data sheets within three months of receiving significant new information regarding chemical hazards or ways to protect against the hazards. A repeat violation is when an employer previously faced citations for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcements states within the last five years. The same violations were in 2008.

Eight additional serious violations, with $20,000 in penalties, were for failing to properly mark a doorway which could have been mistaken for an exit; improperly store and transfer flammable liquids; improper use of a respirator; and for use of excessive compressed air pressure, above OSHA’s limit of 30 pounds per square inch, for cleansing purposes.

“The conditions OSHA cited jeopardize the safety and health of workers at this facility,” said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office. “It is critical that the company take immediate steps to abate these hazards.”

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