OSHA levies 17 safety violations against Pelham company

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has filed 17 safety violations against a Pelham plywood-cutting company, and could levy as much as $51,100 in fines against the business.

OSHA filed 16 serious violations and one “other-than-serious” safety violation against Smith Family Companies, which is off Pardue Road in Pelham. The company specializes in custom-cutting plywood, particle board and other materials to customer specifications, and has been in business since 1992.

Serious violations occur 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,” according to OSHA.

The safety violations came after OSHA investigated the company through its site-specific targeting program, which targets non-construction companies with 40 or more employees and “high occupational injury and illness rates,” according to the agency’s report on the company.

Through the site-specific targeting program, OSHA examines data it receives from companies’ annual OSHA data initiative survey. OSHA’s investigation of Smith Family Companies was based on last year’s survey data.

After investigating Smith Family Companies, OSHA cited the company for failing to use lockout and tagout procedures for energy sources, failing to provide railings for unguarded open-sided floors, failing to mark permanent aisles or passageways where mechanical equipment was used and failing to ensure tiers of wood were stacked, blocked, interlocked or limited in height to keep them from sliding or collapsing.

Other serious violations were failing to provide emergency stop bars in red on hazardous machines, failing to provide machine guarding and failing to provide appropriate slicing of electrical cords servicing equipment and ground prongs for extension cords.

OSHA also cited the company with an “other-than-serious” violation for having an exit not clearly visible and marked. “Other-than-serious” violations have “a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm,” according to the OSHA report.

“A number of electrical hazards were found at Smith Family Cos. that exposed workers to electrical shocks and burns,” OSHA Birmingham director Roberto Sanchez wrote in the report. “It is unacceptable to expose workers to these kinds of hazardous working conditions.”

“Targeting industries with higher-than-average injury and illness rates is an efficient use of OSHA’s resources, and allows the agency to focus on industries where workers are most at risk,” Sanchez wrote.

Smith Family Companies Chief Executive Officer Phil Smith said he “respectfully disagrees” with the OSHA findings, and said the company plans to contest the penalties.

“The well-being of our employees is a priority for Smith Family Companies, and we continually strive to provide them a safe workplace,” Smith said. “We respectfully disagree with the OSHA findings and are evaluating our options to contest those findings and the penalties which have been assessed.”