AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Georgia companies accused of exposing workers to chemical, amputation dangers

Workers at Panolam Industries in Norcross were exposed to formaldehyde, hot oil pipes and flying chips and sparks, and they worked on assembly lines over or near holes in the floor, according to citations issued this month by OSHA.

In all, OSHA said it found 18 serious violations at the plastics and laminates fabrication company. The agency inspected the plant in November after receiving a complaint. It has proposed penalties of about $80,000.

The Gwinnett County plant is among four Georgia workplaces in OSHA's cross hairs this month.

At Recycling Revolution in Unadilla, OSHA issued citations for 14 repeated and 12 serious violations. "The violations include exposing workers to amputations hazards from machine parts, not establishing procedures to protect workers from accidental machine startup while performing maintenance and services, and failure to provide readily accessible fire extinguishers," OSHA said in a news release. OSHA has inspected the company four times since 2012 and issued 24 citations. The latest round carry proposed penalties of about $78,000.

At a sawmill in Cordele, OSHA said that a worker's arm was amputated because officials ignored hazards. The 29-year-old lost his arm when his jacket got caught in the drive shaft of a conveyor belt in January. OSHA said that sprocket wheels and chains on the conveyor belt were unguarded and cited Griffin Lumber for a willful violation with a proposed penalty of $56,000.

And a Statesboro company got in trouble with OSHA for allowing employees to work in a trench without cave-in protection. OSHA employees were driving by the excavation when they saw the unprotected trench, and they said that the owner of DHC Contracting, James Marlowe, was at the worksite and saw the men in the trench. Proposed penalty: $57,900.

Keep in mind that proposed penalties are not final penalties, and that the companies may contest the findings.

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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.