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Officials target workplace safety risk at Illinois plant

An Illinois plant is at odds with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration over four recent citations for serious violations of safety protocols. The violations were said to have occurred at Flex-N-Gate Corp.'s plant, which is located in Urbana. Though no specific work accident was identified, the OSHA action targeted unsafe practices that exposed workers to physical harm.

The financial penalties assessed by OSHA total $21,000. The violations specifically target safeguards designed to protect workers from the dangers of dust explosions within the plant. Seven ineffective dust collectors in the plant's metal polishing department were said to expose workers to the risk of injury from combustible explosions. The dust is the residue from polishing metal and can become lethal as it accumulates.

Flex-N-Gate Corp. was also cited for a failure to protect workers from potentially harmful automated machinery at the plant, including robots and conveyor belts. Specifically, no tagout or lockout system was identified, and OSHA found that the potential exists for robots and other machinery to become operational while being cleaned by workers.

In response, the company asserts the allegations have not been proven, denies them and looks forward to the opportunity to disprove the findings. The company now has the option of accepting the fines, requesting a meeting with the area director for OSHA to seek resolution, or to formally appeal the citations. Unfortunately, this is not the first time the company has been cited by workplace safety officials.

A work accident is harmful for both employees and the company. Lack of proper safeguards can expose employees to unnecessary hazards that can lead to serious injury or even death. As Flex-N-Gate works to respond to the OSHA findings, its employees remain protected by the Illinois workers' compensation system should a work-related accident occur. These important benefits provide for payment of covered medical expenses and related costs, as well as lost income from work while the worker is on the mend.

Source: The News-Gazette, "OSHA cites Flex-N-Gate for 'serious' violations," Don Dodson, Oct. 31, 2012

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