Last week, OSHA recommended the Findlay, Ohio-based tiremaker, along with two of its maintenance contractors, pay a $254,900 fine for 25 violations.
"The level of disregard for workers' safety demonstrated by these employers is truly shocking," said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA's area office in Jackson. "Serious fire and explosion hazards existed due to the improper handling of carbon black in the storage silos, dust collections and dust handling systems. It should not take a massive fire or explosion for employers to implement necessary safety measures to protect their employees."
The Tupelo plant was cited following an inspection and fine at Cooper Tire's Findlay plant, which was fined $213,500 for allegedly committing similar violations.
In an emailed response, Cooper Tire spokeswoman Michelle Zeisloft said, "Cooper received the OSHA citation involving its Tupelo, Miss., plant, and in response to it, notified OSHA of its intention to contest the citation in its entirety.
"Cooper disagrees with OSHA's recent characterization of the citation, but believes it to be inappropriate, at this time, to make specific public comments about the citation. Cooper is confident the issues raised in the citation will be thoroughly and adequately addressed in the administrative process."
The company has asked for a hearing with the Occupational Safety Health Review Commission, an agency independent of OSHA.
Cooper has requested that OSHRC combine the Findlay and Tupelo citations so that they can be heard by an administrative law judge as a single case.
While the fine levied against Cooper is large, it is about a third of the $683,000 fine OSHA levied against Mueller Industries last year. The agency fined the Memphis-based company for 128 safety violations at three of its facilities in Fulton, where one maintenance worker was killed in July 2009.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.