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OSHA cites company that exposed workers to risk

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited Exel Inc. for nine workplace safety and health violations, six of which were considered willful. The violations occurred at a plant owned by Hershey Co. that was operated by the Ohio-based Exel. The proposed penalties include a fine that may cost the company more than $280,000. Another organization -- SHS Staffing Solutions -- has also been cited for one violation.

At least one of these violations was considered serious, which means that it could have resulted in the serious injury or death of a worker. SHS Staffing Solutions supposedly failed to train its employees on the lockout/tagout method used for hazardous energy sources. If something happened, it could have resulted in a wrongful death suit.

According to reports, OSHA was made aware of the inadequate working conditions found at the distribution center for Hershey Co. through a complaint filed by the National Guestworker Alliance. A group of foreign students were working summer jobs at the facility under the J-1 visa program.

The complaint alleges that the students were exposed to exploitative and unsafe working conditions. It also suggests that the visa program was being abused.

Exel had a contract with SHS Staffing Solutions that allowed the staffing company to hire the students so they could work at the Hershey facility. Exel, which was responsible for record keeping at the distribution center, supposedly failed to record injuries and illnesses for four years.

According to OSHA, the company also failed to evaluate the accuracy of the injury logs before certifying them for three years, and it failed to develop a hearing conservation program for its employees. The six willful violations that the company allegedly committed have a combined price tag of $280,000.

Source: CBS 21, "Hershey owned facility fined by OSHA," Feb. 21, 2012

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