MARINETTE, Wis. — Recent federal safety inspections of a northern Wisconsin foundry determined workplace safety failures caused two workers to suffer severe injuries. In May, a worker lost two fingers to amputation and in July, an overhead hot metal carrier struck and injured another worker.
While the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration was investigating the May 4 incident at Waupaca Foundry Inc. in Marinette, the agency opened a second scheduled inspection under its National Emphasis Program for Primary Metals. Inspectors found violations related to exposures to respirable crystalline silica and noise. During the course of the second inspection, the employer reported the July 17 injury to inspectors, which led to a third inspection.
OSHA determined a lack of energy control procedures – commonly known as lockout/tagout – exposed workers to hazards in both incidents.
After completing the three inspections, OSHA issued one willful, seven serious and five other-than-serious violations to Waupaca Foundry, and proposed $200,895 in penalties.
“Foundries are inherently dangerous industrial operations, where workers are exposed to hazards from machinery, trips and falls, occupational noise, and respirable silica,” said OSHA Area Director Robert Bonack in Appleton. “Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their workers.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the foundry industry had a 6.4 percent rate of injury for every 100 workers in 2020.
OSHA cited the following violations:
- Exposure to fall hazards to a lower level.
- Exposure to trip hazards due to partially covered pit openings.
- Inadequate machine guarding.
- Use of damaged fixed ladders.
- Inadequate engineering/administrative controls to reduce excessive noise exposures.
- Exposure exceeding the personal exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica.
- Exposure to respirable crystalline silica due to inadequate engineering and administrative controls, dry sweeping, and cleaning with compressed air.
Owned by Hitachi Metals, Waupaca Foundry Inc. is a leading supplier of iron castings to the automotive, commercial vehicle, agriculture, construction and industrial markets. Headquartered in Waupaca, the company employs approximately 4,500 people in Waupaca and Marinette; Tell City, Indiana; and Etowah, Tennessee.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.