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April 10, 2024
OSHA cites, fines EV battery maker again

After workers at a Commerce, Georgia, electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility suffered potentially permanent respiratory damage in a lithium battery fire, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited SK Battery America Inc. a second time in less than a year and seeks $77,200 in new penalties, the agency announced April 8.

Following the fire, OSHA investigators determined the company failed to train its employees on how to adequately protect themselves in a toxic atmosphere that left multiple workers injured. The agency cited SK Battery with five serious violations after finding the company: 

  • Exposed workers to inhalation hazards, including hydrofluoric acid vapors produced in lithium battery fires, by failing to establish a comprehensive emergency response plan;
  • Didn’t ensure its staffing agency, Moveret Inc., which supplied workers at the site, made its employees aware of the hazards associated with lithium battery fires;
  • Failed to train on-site emergency responders and members of the fire brigade on hazards associated with lithium battery fires and equip them to treat employees exposed to such hazards; 
  • Didn’t train workers on hazardous chemicals in their work areas and means to protect themselves from lithium battery fires; and
  • Failed to annually fit-test workers required to use tight-fitting facepiece respirators.

OSHA cited SK Battery with violations of its hazard communication (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1910.1200) and respiratory protection (§1910.134) standards—two of the agency’s top 10 most cited standards.

“On multiple occasions in less than a year, we have found SK Battery America failing in their responsibility to meet required federal standards designed to help every worker end their shift safely,” Joshua Turner, OSHA’s Atlanta-East area office director, said in a statement.

SK Battery America, which employs about 3,100 people at 2 battery manufacturing plants in Commerce, is a subsidiary of SK On, Inc., according to OSHA. SK On, in turn, is part of Seoul-based SK Group, South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate.

St. Louis contractor facing $267K in OSHA fines

OSHA cited St. Louis contractor H R Vasquez Construction LLC with 13 violations—9 repeat, 3 serious, and 1 other-than-serious—for exposing employees to fall hazards at 5 residential worksites, the agency announced April 5. The employer faces $267,332 in OSHA penalties.

Agency inspectors opened investigations after observing employees working on roofs without required fall protection equipment at separate sites on October 25, 27, and 30 and November 2 and 28, 2023.

Investigators found the company didn’t provide employees with fall protection as they worked at heights greater than 6 feet and failed to ensure workers using pneumatic nail guns wore personal eye and face protective equipment. H R Vasquez Construction also allowed the improper use of ladders, hadn’t developed a written hazard communication program, and didn’t begin or maintain an accident prevention program.

OSHA’s construction industry fall protection standard (§1926.501) has remained the agency’s most cited standard for 13 years in a row, OSHA announced last fall. In fiscal year 2023, the agency cited 7,271 fall protection violations. Its ladders and eye and face protection standards are also among its top 10 most cited.

“OSHA repeatedly finds roofing contractors like H R Vasquez Construction ignoring federal safety regulations and exposing workers to the construction industry’s deadliest hazard,” Bill McDonald, OSHA’s St. Louis area office director, said in a statement. The agency has cited the contractor seven times since 2021 for putting roofing workers in danger.

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