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GST had OSHA violations in past

January 24, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

GST AutoLeather has incurred 45 violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration codes, half of them serious, since 1988, a number the company said is meaningless since it has corrected each of the infractions.

The automotive leather manufacturer, formerly known as Garden State Tanning, is under investigation by Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH), which reports to OSHA, for the Wednesday afternoon accident at the plant that claimed the life of one of its employees.

Deanna L. Stottlemyer was killed Wednesday when she got caught in one of the rollers on spraying machine No. 3, a hide-coloring machine. The machine still was shut down Friday as MOSH investigators continue to determine how the 37-year-old woman was killed.

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Linda Sherman, communications officer for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which oversees MOSH investigations, said the GST AutoLeather probe is ongoing.

Chris Ehret, safety director for the plant, said, "I believe to this point we haven't found any unsafe conditions."

Sherman said the plant has been inspected 12 times since 1988, with six of the inspections resulting in violations.

Inspections can occur as the result of complaints or as part of a routine investigation, she said.

GST AutoLeather was found to be in violation of MOSH codes 45 times since 1988, Sherman said. Half of the violations were serious, but she couldn't say what the most serious violation was.

The fines totaled more than $50,000 for the 45 violations, but that's probably not what the company paid once the cases went to court, she said.

No deaths were listed since 1988, she said.

According to the OSHA Web site, on Sept. 8 and Oct. 11, GST AutoLeather was found to be in violation of the general requirements for personal protective equipment and was fined $4,000 for each violation. In both cases, the amount was settled for $1,200.

The company also was cited on Sept. 8 with a fine of $2,500 for not protecting its employees from hazardous energy, but the fine was settled for $1,002. On the same date, the company was cited with a $3,500 fine for not communicating the hazards of chemicals at the plant properly to its employees.

On May 8, 2001, the company was issued a $2,500 fine for not keeping its machines up to guarding requirements, but it was settled for $1,250.

In 1999, the company was found to have 23 serious violations, including two violations for the failure to guard employees from machinery belts.

Ehret said the plant is going through all of its machine guarding again as part of a standard procedure.

Christopher T. Werner, senior vice president for operations at GST AutoLeather, said he had no comment on the company's prior violations.

Ehret said all of the company's prior violations have been corrected.

"We've had OSHA and MOSH violations in a lot of different areas and we fix whatever the government finds," he said.

Ehret said he doesn't know whether spraying machine No. 3 ever was found in violation of any of the codes listed on the OSHA Web site.

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