Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional comments from OSHA.
Nox US is a vinyl tile manufacturer with about 200 employees working at a plant in Fostoria, Ohio. The company is a subsidiary of Nox Corp, a South Korean outfit that has a rather subpar reputation when it comes to the health and safety of its employees.
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The Midwest plant is now facing more than a half million dollars ($545,853) in fines after the fourteenth worker in just six years suffered an injury. OSHA inspected the facility after it received a report of a finger amputation in February 2023. A 56-year-old machine operator suffered a serious injury after a gloved finger became ensnared in a chain and sprocket system that didn't have the requisite safety guards in place.
After the inspection in March and a follow-up in May 2023 that was the result of a previous inspection, OSHA hit the company for 10 different violations, including a lack of lockout/tagout procedures, improper training and lack of machine guarding on boxing and lamination lines.
With multiple investigations still in progress, OSHA had to open a new one at the facility on July 20, 2023, after a different worker suffered chemical burns.
NOX US appears to be far from learning any lesson. Just 10 months ago, OSHA hit the factory with $1.2 million in proposed penalties that remain in limbo since the company contested OSHA's findings.
Of the 14 workers injured at the plant since 2017, several have included "severe amputations." The company has been in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program since 2017.
OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan said, "Nox US is failing to meet their legal responsibility to provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment, and they must change the way it operates before another employee is needlessly injured."
We reached out to OSHA to see what, if anything, the safety agency can do next, including potential shutdowns.
According to Scott Allen, regional director for public affairs and media relations with the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA doesn't have jurisdiction or authority to close a business. Allen adds that Nox US has contested OSHA’s findings, so the matter will now go before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. "OSHA does not make any further comments while it is under contest," Allen said.
While OSHA doesn’t have the jurisdiction to shutdown a manufacturer, it can refer any case to another agency, like the Department of Justice, but the safety agency doesn’t release that information.
After OSHA identified serious hazards that posed an imminent danger to the health and safety of employees, and the company voluntarily shut down the Laminator #2 Line until the hazards could be abated. “On August 1, OSHA reviewed the company procedures to ensure they were adequate in protecting the safety of employees and informed the company they can safely restart their processes,” Allen added.
According to Allen, the company has cooperated with OSHA to remedy previous violations. “OSHA’s latest safety violations were the combined result of two different inspections, one inspection covered a reported finger amputation and a separate follow-up inspection reviewed the abatement of eight prior inspections,” Allen said.
We also contacted Nox US to see if the company is doing anything to change its safety failure ways, but the company hasn't responded to our request for comment.