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Workers at Koser Iron Works suffered exposure to dangerous amputation hazards while fabricating metal products because safety mechanisms were not in place, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Koser is a steel fabrication company that primarily cuts, forms and welds steel and steel products. Responding to a complaint, OSHA inspectors found during an investigation initiated Oct. 1, two willful, four repeated and 12 serious safety violations, including lack of training and personal protective equipment. The agency has proposed fines of $102,180 for the Barron, WI-based company.

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“Workers pay the price when companies fail to follow safety standards,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire. “Machine hazards are among the most frequently cited by OSHA. All manufacturers should examine their procedures to ensure they are in compliance. It takes seconds for a worker to be severely injured, but often a lifetime to recover.”

While Koser employees made die changes on punch presses, the company failed to use energy control procedures, including powering off and affixing locking devices to prevent unintentional operation of a press. The company also failed to ensure safety mechanisms were in place on its power presses and lathes. OSHA found similar hazards in a 2013 investigation after a complaint prompted an inspection at the same facility.

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

Inspectors also found lift truck operators did not have training before operating equipment, a violation also noted in 2013, which produced a second repeated violation. OSHA issues repeated violations if an employer faced previous citations for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the past five years.

Workers also suffered exposure to explosion and fire hazards because Koser failed to store flammable liquids properly; electrical equipment and lift trucks did not have approval for areas with flammable atmospheres; and the company failed to install a required ventilation system in the storage room.

Koser Iron Works also failed to ensure the use of eye protection or to evaluate employees medically before they used respirators. There was also damaged welding and electrical equipment.

In total, 12 serious violations ended up issued. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

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