Cooper Tire contesting OSHA findings

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Cooper Tire amp& Rubber Co. is contesting findings by the federal Occupational Safety Health and Administration that the tiremaker committed safety violations at its plants in Ohio and Tupelo.
It has asked for a hearing with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, but a date has not been set.
OSHA has recommended a $254,900 fine against Cooper Tire in Tupelo, along with two of its maintenance contractors, for what it deems a “significant enforcement action.”
The inspection and subsequent fine levied against the Tupelo plant was precipitated by an inspection late last year of Cooper Tire’s Findlay, Ohio, plant, where the OSHA office in Toledo found serious safety violations.
The Findlay plant was fined $213,500.
OSHA’s area office in Jackson began its inspection in Tupelo on Dec. 7, and over the course of several weeks found 25 safety violations.
“OSHA saw that the two plants were similar, so there was a chance that they might have similar problems since the safety management practices would be similar,” said Michael Wald, the regional director of office affairs for the U.S. Department of Labor in Atlanta.
The Tupelo plant was cited for:
- Two “willful violations” – with proposed maximum penalties of $140,000 – that included failing to provide protection from fires and explosions in the plant’s ductwork, particle size separators, dust collectors and conveyor systems; and failing to install equipment and use wiring methods that were approved specifically for hazardous locations.
- A repeat violation with a $16,500 penalty was cited for failing to replace or repair defective safety latches on a hoist.
The company received a citation for the same violation in 2007 at the Findlay plant.
- Nine serious violations totaled $47,400.
“The fine is certainly large, but by no means the largest for OSHA,” Wald said. “The two willful violations – $70,000 each – are the maximum that OSHA can levy by law for a willful violation, the most serious type of violation in OSHA.”
JESCO Maintenance Corp., a maintenance contractor at the plant, was hit with eight serious violations with proposed penalties of $44,000. The other contractor, IH Services, was fined $7,000 for one serious violation.
While the Labor Department announced its findings publicly on Tuesday, Cooper Tire was informed earlier this month.
“Cooper Tire had earlier asked for a hearing about the citations issued in Findlay, Ohio, so they are adding Mississippi to that request as well,” Wald said. “It will be up to the OSHRC now to schedule a hearing before a judge to hear both sides and make a ruling.”
IH Services also has asked for a hearing, said Clyde Payne of OSHA’s Jackson office.
One of Lee County’s largest employers, Cooper Tire employs about 1,300 workers in Tupelo, in addition to several hundred contract workers. Cooper produces mainly passenger car replacement tires, but has expanded its assortment of truck and SUV tires as well.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.