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FORD FINED $175,000 FOR VIOLATIONS AT AREA PLANT

Ford Motor Co. will pay $175,000 after being cited for 25 safety violations at its Buffalo Stamping Plant in Hamburg, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday.

The penalties follow a six-month investigation that ended Sept. 24, the safety agency said in a press release. OSHA's office in Bowmansville conducted the investigation.

"Certainly our first concern is for our employees," Ford spokesman Frank Sopata said. "We are cooperating with OSHA to correct the violations at Buffalo stamping."

The citations resulted from an OSHA's inspection program that targets industries with higher-than-average injury rates, the agency said.

A Ford worker was hospitalized in serious condition Sept. 15 after receiving an electrical shock from a machine. However, that incident was unrelated to the OSHA investigation or safety citations, Sopata said.

Electrical burns from a 440-volt line sent Ford employee Deborah Bateman to Erie County Medical Center.

Sopata said he was unsure whether the injury will prompt a further investigation by OSHA. The accident was the first serious injury at the plant in five years, he said.

A U.S. Labor Department spokesman referred questions to OSHA Buffalo-area director David E. Boyce, who could not be reached Tuesday evening.

Among the alleged safety violations were six termed "serious" by the workplace safety agency. Serious violations are ones that could result in death or serious injury. OSHA said the company failed to:

Guard openings in the floor.

Guard rotating shaft couplings

equip fan motors with disconnection switches.

Provide training or fit-testing for workers using respirators.

Comply with requirements for mechanical power presses.

According to Sopata, some of the citations involved guards on machines in remote areas that needed adjustment or that had been removed for maintenance and not replaced.

The bulk of the penalty, $160,600, resulted from 16 alleged repeat violations involving power presses, storage of oxygen and acetylene, electrical hazards and other problems, the agency said. The original violations occurred at Ford plants in Ohio and Illinois since 1998, not in Hamburg.

Ford plants are inspected by OSHA every three years, Sopata said, about nine having been inspected this year. Sopata said he was unaware of safety violations being found at other plants.

The company agreed to provide safety and health training to supervisors and union committee persons as well as to safety audit teams, OSHA's statement said.

Ford and the United Auto Workers also agreed that enforcement of safety rules will be done jointly by the union and management, the agency said.

Plant management agreed to assessments of press stop-time, a safety delay before the press responds to an operator's button-push, and other safety factors, OSHA said. The metal stamping plant on Route 5 employs about 2,000 people making components for Ford vehicles.

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