Workers at the Keymark Corp. aluminum plant in Fonda were exposed to a known carcinogen, high noise levels and potentially fatal 17-foot falls, federal regulators say.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the situation in March after receiving a complaint and fined the company $53,000, citing 11 serious violations.
“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,” OSHA said in a news release this week.
OSHA found employees could have easily fallen 17 feet into a work pit that lacked a guardrail.
They could have been caught in or injured by an unintentional machinery startup. Apparently procedures and training for turning off machine power sources before maintenance and servicing were lacking, OSHA said.
It also cited Keymark for failing to determine how much exposure workers had to toxic chromium, a known cancer-causing compound that targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. A major source of worker exposure to chromium occurs during “hot work,” such as welding on steels.
OSHA found Keymark failed to ensure proper, clean changing areas for employees working with chromium and failed to ensure contaminated clothing was stored and transported in sealed containers.
OSHA also found employees were exposed to high noise levels without the use of hearing protectors or training in how to use and care for such gear.
“These employees faced both short- and long-term risks to their health and well-being, ranging from potentially fatal falls and hearing loss to cumulative damage to the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes from chromium exposure,” said Kimberly Castillon, OSHA’s area director in Albany. “Keymark must take prompt and effective action to ensure that these conditions are corrected and do not pose future risk to employees.”
Keymark officials did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The company has 15 business days from the day it receives the citations to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before an independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The company’s origins date back to 1946, when William Keller Sr. and Austin Kasson established Kasson and Keller in Fonda as a distributor of aluminum storm windows and doors. Keller’s son, William Keller Jr., took over the business and opened an aluminum extrusion plant in 1965 on Cayadutta Street that grew and expanded over the years to employ between 850 and 900 people as of 2007.
In the summer of 1998, a spark in an electrical box ignited paint fumes at the plant, exposing more than 40 employees to chemicals released by the fire. About 35 employees were sent to area hospitals. OSHA fined Keymark $10,000 after an investigation found it had not done enough to prevent the fire.
In 2007, the company set out to “identify and enrich its safety culture,” according to the company website. It adopted a set of values for “General Organizational Excellence” that included mission statements such as “We can and will prevent accidents” and “We always work safely.”
In 2010, OSHA listed Keymark as one of 15,000 businesses nationwide whose injury and illness rates were considerably higher than the national average.