Health and Safety: Workers Shed Light on Serious Problems
OSHA Cites Fuyao Glass Plant with $227,000 in Fines for Violations
In a 1.5 million-square-feet facility on West Stroop Road in Moraine, Ohio, Fuyao Glass America is quickly gaining attention for its attempt to become the world’s largest single-site auto glass factory. The news, however, is not all good. And a lot of it boils down to how the company is treating its 1,500 workers.
“We have had some complaints here about safety and now it seems to be getting more attention from outside the plant than inside,” said Larry Yates, a furnace operator who has been with the company since May 31. “There are some serious issues that we have been dealing with and if more exposure means those things will get fixed, it’s a good thing and means we can come to work and back home without being injured.”
On Oct. 31, the U.S, Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Fuyao up to $227,000 following six complaint inspections at the plant in 2016. OSHA reported that it found “multiple machine safety violations which expose workers to amputation and other serious injuries, as well as a lack of personal protective equipment, electrical hazards, failing to train workers about hazardous chemicals in use and unmarked exits.”
In total, OSHA cited 23 serious safety violations and one other-than-serious violation.
On Nov. 29, Fuyao was in the spotlight again when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asked the federal court in Dayton to order Fuyao Glass America Inc. to provide documents in a case alleging an employee was fired because of his support for a union.
“People are paying attention,” said Ralph Martin, a production worker. “No one benefits when your workplace is unsafe or when workers can’t have a voice. It is bad for me as a worker and bad for everyone who has a financial or emotional investment in this company being here.”
The Moraine glass plant takes the raw glass supplied by a Fuyao facility in Mount Zion, Illinois, and prepares it for shipment to North American automaker customers.
“Fuyao Glass America needs to protect its workers. Period,” said Ken Montgomery, OSHA’s area director in Cincinnati. “Since Fuyao began operations in October 2015, we have received multiple complaints and conducted eight inspections at the facility. We found safety and health violations in six of them. OSHA will remain vigilant until this rapidly expanding company protects its workers from serious safety hazards by making needed improvements to equipment, procedures and training. Providing jobs in a community should not come at the expense of workers’ safety and health.”
OSHA reported that it found ‘multiple machine safety violations which expose workers to amputation and other serious injuries.’
“The fact that OSHA would announce over $227,000 in fines after eight safety inspections for things like personal protective gear, machine hazards and electrical and chemical exposures is a rare and serious situation and these problems need to be addressed,” said Ken Lortz, director of UAW Region 2B, which includes Ohio. “The UAW stands with these men and women as they look for resolutions, as obviously, there continues to be serious health and safety issues in the plant,” said Lortz.
Cynthia Harper is a lamination specialist at Fuyao, working in an area where material, called “PVB material,” is placed in laminated or layered glass. Complaints filed by Harper and others
have included fire hazards, threat of electrocution and severe cuts. The plant is equipped with burning hot furnaces and workers regularly handle highly flammable materials, yet few workers have ever seen an evacuation plan in the event of a fire, and the plant has never conducted an evacuation drill. There have been complaints that exit signs throughout the plant are incorrect and lead to dead ends with no way out.
Also, workers have complained that they must wade through standing water that regularly accumulates on the plant floor near electrical wires and pedal switches. Power lines are also found lying across the ground in the way of moving equipment, including cranes that could hit the lines and spark an electrical fire. Also, there are complaints about serious cuts, often requiring stitches, from sharp knives used to trim excess plastic from windows after lamination.
And, workers say that they do not have proper respiratory gear to protect them from exposure to silica that is pumped into the air in certain parts of the plant; conveyer belts and other equipment throughout the plant lack guards to protect workers from injury; and as the plant adds more production lines, aisles are becoming congested and are routinely blocked by forklifts and other transport vehicles.
The Fuyao plant is located just south of Dayton and opened in 2015 at the site of the former GM Moraine facility. It has received an estimated $14 million in subsidies from the state of Ohio. By all accounts, it is encouraging to see the plant humming with activity, but those who work there say they remain concerned about the dark clouds over safety violations.
“At the end of the day, we all want to be part of a success story,” said Jocelyn Johnson-Grant, a production worker. “No one here wants this to fail. We all have something at stake. What I’m hoping is that we can find a way to all win together — and that happens when we all have a seat at the table and can contribute.”