Johnstown plant fined $104K after machine injury probe

Pearl Leather Finishers was assessed $104,000 in fines by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupati


Pearl Leather Finishers was assessed $104,000 in fines by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration after an incident last year in which an employee’s hand got caught in an embossing press.

Federal officials were called to inspect the plant following the October 2010 accident and found 20 violations. The inspection revealed that a press lacked adequate guards that would have prevented the worker from getting caught in the machine.

“This case is a stark example of the devastating consequences to workers when adequate machine guarding is absent,” Edward Jerome, director of OSHA’s Albany office, said in a statement. “Had the press been effectively guarded, this injury would not have occurred.”

The inspection identified several other instances of unguarded or inadequately guarded machinery, OSHA said. The company also lacked procedures, tools and training to ensure that machines are shut down and their power sources locked out before employees performed maintenance.

Additional hazards identified during the inspection included lack of a hazard assessment to determine the necessary personal protective equipment, a lack of protective eyewear, a lack of a written respirator program, a lack of a chemical hazard communication program and a lack of medical evaluations. Access to fire extinguishers was blocked, electrical hazards were identified and excess pressure was used for a compressed air hose, the inspection revealed.

The company also was cited for inaccurately recording an injury. This “other-than-serious violation” resulted in a $900 fine, according to OSHA.

“A key tool in addressing and preventing hazards such as these is for employers to establish an injury and illness prevention program through which workers and management work together on an ongoing basis to identify and eliminate hazardous conditions in the workplace,” Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York, said in a statement.

Pearl Leather Finishers has 15 business days to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

John Ruggiero, the president and chief operating officer of Pearl Leather Finishers, declined to comment about the fines.

Founded in 1976 in Johnstown, Pearl Leather Finishers now occupies a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and employs 130 workers. The company has the capacity to process 35,000 hides per week and is considered one of the largest suppliers of automotive leather in the world, according to its website.

Categories: Schenectady County

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