Federal regulators have cited Vestas Towers America in Pueblo for two-dozen alleged safety and health violations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Monday it has cited Vestas for one willful and 23 serious violations following an inspection of the wind turbine manufacturing plant.
The inspection was initiated after an employee suffered a partial amputation of two fingers and a broken wrist in November.
OSHA has proposed $164,000 in fines against Vestas.
“Vestas Towers America failed to provide its employees with a safe and healthful workplace,” said John Healy, OSHA area office director in Englewood. “The numerous hazards uncovered during this investigation are totally unacceptable.”
The willful violation concerns the removal of support equipment while welding sections of wind towers together, which caused the sections to slide and resulted in the amputation injury, OSHA said. A willful violation is one committed with “intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.”
The other violations address alleged exposure to hazards associated with improper machine guarding, damaged electrical equipment, improper forklift operations, a lack of guardrails, inadequate worker access, improper use of ladders, a lack of personal protective equipment and not training workers on the use of hazardous chemicals, OSHA said.
Vestas did not immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment on the OSHA citations.
Danish wind energy giant Vestas Wind Systems employs about 1,500 people in Colorado and has invested more than $1 billion in the state for manufacturing plants in Pueblo, Brighton and Windsor and a research center in Lousville. Vestas says the Pueblo facility is the world’s largest wind tower manufacturing plant.
In October, an employee of Southlake, Texas-based Transportation Technology Services died at the Pueblo plant after he was pinned between a forklift and a rail car while loading sections of wind towers for shipment. Both the Texas company and Vestas were cited in that incident, with OSHA proposing $17,000 in fines against Vestas. Healy said OSHA has reached “an agreement in principle” with Vestas in that case, which still needs to be approved by an administrative law judge.
UPDATE: Vestas issued this statement via email late Monday.
Safety is the primary value at Vestas. We practice “safety first” in every part of our business operations. With our commitment to safety in mind, Vestas takes great care to ensure the safety of our employees, equipment, customers and the general public.
Vestas Towers America, Inc. has cooperated fully with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in its inspection of the industrial incident that occurred in the Pueblo factory on November 19, 2010. We have proactively taken measures to further enhance our health and safety program, and we have already addressed many of the concerns raised during OSHA’s inspection.
For example, we’ve enhanced our extensive safety orientation training and daily safety briefings, and we’ve placed added emphasis on safety training in classrooms and in the factory. We’ve put an even greater emphasis on our safety walks and inspections for all employees and contractors campus-wide. We launched a new employee campaign to correlate safety procedures with personal behavior. And we hired a reputable third party with extensive experience in safety-related services to conduct a comprehensive health and safety legal compliance audit. This audit is now underway.
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