OSHA: No word from Mueller about appeal

By Dennis Seid

FULTON – Mueller Industries has not yet told the Occupational Safety and Health Administration whether or not it will appeal a $683,000 fine.
Mueller was slapped with the fine on Jan. 25, cited for 128 safety violations related to a July 29 fire and explosion that killed a worker and injured two others at Mueller Copper Tube.
The company has 15 days to file an appeal; that deadline is Friday.
“Mueller has not indicated to OSHA whether they plan to contest the fine or not,” said OSHA spokesman Mike Wald. “They’re still in that 15-day window and they don’t have to tell us. But we’re waiting to know whether they’ll contest it or not.”
John Hansen, president of manufacturing operations for Mueller, didn’t give any hint whether or not the Memphis-based company would file an appeal.
Hansen said in an e-mail that the company “remains focused on the safety and well-being of our employees. Corrective actions have been completed on all but a few of the items cited by OSHA at our Fulton operations. Of those remaining, action plans are in place and are moving forward. We have met with OSHA and continue to work with them to address safety issues.”
In an appeal, both sides would take their case to a judge, who would determine the amount the company would have to pay. The company could be made to pay the entire fine or it could be reduced.
Mueller Industries owns Mueller Copper Tube in Fulton, along with three other plants – Mueller Casting, Mueller Copper Fittings and Mueller Packaging. Mueller Copper Tube is the oldest and largest of the four plants in the complex.
In the latest OSHA charge, more than 90 of the 128 citations were levied against Mueller Copper Tube. OSHA findings included failure to guard machinery, exposure to electrical shock, unsafe electrical equipment and practices, and failure to label hazardous chemicals.
Mueller Copper Tube also received the bulk of the fines – $413,500.
Mueller Fittings’ 22 citations included unsafe propane storage and handling, unsafe material storage and likelihood of exposure to blood-borne pathogens. It faces $166,500 in fines.
Mueller Packaging was issued 12 citations, including unsafe crane operation, failing to lock out sources of hazardous energy and electrical hazards. OSHA has recommended $103,000 in fines.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.