By Portia Williams
FRANKLIN FURNACE — G & J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers Inc. has been cited for $86,900 in penalties for seven workplace health and safety violations by The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Scott Allen, U.S Department of Labor’s OSHA spokesperson, said G & J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers, Inc. was cited for the OSHA the seven violations during an inspection of the Franklin Furnace plant in July 2013 under its Site-Specific Targeting Program, which targets facilities with higher than average illness and injury rates.
According to the U.S Department of Labor, the breakdown of the seven violations that G & J Peps-Cola of Franklin Furnace include the following:
Two repeat safety violations involve failing to ensure that employees utilize appropriate personal protective equipment when working with electrical sources and implement lockout/tagout procedures to prevent the unintentional startup of equipment during maintenance and servicing, when employees are most at risk.
A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The same violations were cited in 2009 at the company’s Hamilton facility.
Five serious safety citations were issued to the company. Two of those violations involved failure to use lockout/tagout procedures. The remaining three included failing to perform hazard assessments related to personal protective equipment, failure to use appropriate protective equipment and failure to perform annual fit testing to ensure employees wore respirators. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Allen said the G & J Pepsi-Cola plant of Franklin Furnace contested the violations.
“Basically, they got the citations and they responded to OSHA saying that they contest them. By OSHA rules they are not technically obligated to abate all of the violations. While the citations are being contested, the company doesn’t necessarily have to complete all of the abatement, we hope that they will because our biggest concern is making sure of the safety of the workers there. We hope that they will correct all of the issues that we’ve recognized,” Allen said.
In compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for all workers in every workplace.
“Here’s how it works. If they did not contest them, and they came in with a requested an informal settlement, they could sit down with the area office and they could up with a plan. The OSHA area office would basically say,’You have to get this done in this amount of time,’ and it depends on the complexity of the issues. Some might have to be done immediately, and some they would consider allowing more time, depending on the complexity of the safety issue,” he said.
He said the Franklin Furnace plant is not required to respond until a determination is made by the Occupational Safety Review Commission which could take up to one year.
“That’s is an administrative law judge that will hear that case,” he said. So, from our perspective, we want these issues corrected as quickly as possible, before any potential injuries or deaths occur,” he said.
Allen said he is not cognizant of any injuries or deaths that have occurred at the G & J Pepsi-Cola Company in Franklin Furnace up to this point.
G&J Pepsi-Cola employs more than 1,600 people at 11 locations in Ohio and Kentucky, including production facilities in Lexington and Winchester, Ky., and in Columbus and Portsmouth, Ohio. G&J has distribution centers in Hamilton, Ripley, Hillsboro, Athens, Chillicothe, and Zanesville, and in Harrodsburg, Ky. The company has contested the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.
Attempts were made by The Portsmouth Daily Times to speak with G & J Pepsi-Cola Human Resource staff persons, but telephone calls were not returned.
For more information regarding OSHA standards, visit www.osha.gov.
Portia Williams can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 286, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.