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Packaging Manufacturer Fined After 25-Year-Old Worker Severely Injured

The worker was removing polyethylene foam from an extruding machine when a static discharge ignited a flammable gas.

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On Feb. 10, 2022, OSHA opened a federal workplace safety investigation after a 25-year-old worker suffered serious arm burns at the International Cushioning factory in Fremont, Ohio. 

The worker was removing polyethylene foam from an extruding machine when a static discharge ignited isobutane, a colorless, flammable gas released in the production process. The heated foam melted on the employee's arm, causing second-degree burns.

The employee was hospitalized, and OSHA recently determined that the plant failed to follow required federal safety standards that might have prevented the incident.

Inspectors also found industrial fans positioned on the foam line were not properly rated for use in hazardous atmospheres, and that the employer failed to provide workers with spark-resistant hand tools – violations that exposed workers to potential ignition hazards. The company also failed to provide adequate protective equipment for the workers' hands, arms and feet.

In all, OSHA issued citations for 25 serious safety and health violations and proposed $177,950 in penalties.

OSHA cited the company for failing to report an injury within 24 hours, as required; allowing operation of machinery, including grinders, pulleys and belts, without required safety guards; lacking machine lockout/tagout; failing to train employees as required; not ensuring use of electrical safe work practices; and permitting unsafe operation of powered industrial vehicles.

A March 2 health inspection found unsanitary conditions and process safety management violations. Inspectors also learned the company did not have a hearing conservation program or an emergency plan.

Based in Marlboro, New Jersey, International Cushioning has been in the manufacturing industry for more than 50 years, providing foam and paper packaging products at facilities in Indiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. The company opened the Fremont facility in 2020.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an inspection of International Cushioning Co. in Fremont , after learning of the injury and receiving a referral by the local fire department alleging fire hazards due to poor housekeeping of combustibles and flammables.

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.

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