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Buffalo Recycling disputes OSHA fine

Buffalo Recycling Enterprises is facing $61,000 in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration stemming from an accident last October that injured a worker's arm.

The company, located at 266 Hopkins St. in South Buffalo, is contesting the allegations, and its lawyer describes the OSHA action as overreaching.

OSHA said the worker's left arm was "severely lacerated" when it became caught in a conveyor belt that began moving while he was trying to clear a paper jam.

The agency accuses Buffalo Recycling of 15 violations of workplace health and safety standards.

OSHA issued 10 "serious" citations, with $60,000 in fines, plus five "other-than-serious" violations, with $1,000 in fines.

OSHA and the company disagree over who should be held responsible for the accident.

Arthur Dube, OSHA's Buffalo-area director, said the citations reflect two primary workplace safety and health issues: traumatic injury from being caught in machinery that was not properly shut down and locked out, and potential exposure to disease from "inadequate precautions against blood and sharps." The sharps refer to needles found in waste being recycled.

"Both of these hazards can be addressed by equipping employees with knowledge and tools to minimize work-related hazards to help them do their jobs safely," Dube said in a statement.

Robert Walsh, an attorney for Buffalo Recycling, described the worker as an "expert" who injured himself while directing the repair of the equipment.

"We're very disappointed in the citations; we've contested them," he said. "We feel OSHA knew or should have known the cause was the in-effect expert who ended up hurting himself."

Walsh said he did not know the current health status of the worker who was injured.

OSHA claims neither the Buffalo Recycling employees who cleaned up the worker's blood after the accident nor those whose duties involve sorting and disposing of needles and other potentially infectious sharps had received training in blood-borne hazards.

The company denies the employees were not properly trained to handle the cleanup after the accident, Walsh said.

OSHA and the company also tangled over an inspection warrant signed by a judge in December, allowing OSHA to inspect Buffalo Recycling's entire facility for evidence of OSHA violations. When Buffalo Recycling refused to comply, OSHA brought a motion for an order of civil contempt. The company moved to quash the warrant, arguing OSHA had not established probable cause for a search of the entire facility.

"OSHA wanted to come out and do much more than was required under the law and reasonable," Walsh said. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy, who had issued the warrant, ended up quashing the warrant, saying he agreed with Buffalo Recycling that it was "overbroad."

Dube said OSHA did not misrepresent itself in its application to the judge for the warrant, but he declined to comment further.

Buffalo Recycling will contest OSHA's citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


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