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Two Companies Face Fines in Pennsylvania Workplace Injury Case

Federal regulators have announced proposed fines of thousands of dollars in a recent case involving safety violations at a Pennsylvania facility for repackaging and distributing candy. The facility was owned by The Hersey Co. and operated by Exel Inc., based in Westerville, Ohio.

More than one type of workplace injury was involved in the case. Numerous workers at the plant in Palmyra, Pa., were hit by falling boxes, suffered cuts from cardboard or sustained other injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the Palmyra facility after receiving a complaint from the National Guestworker Alliance on behalf of foreign students who worked there last summer. The students had been placed there through SHS Staffing Solutions of Lemoyne, Pa.

OSHA has proposed fines of $283,000 against Exel Inc. and $5,000 against SHS Staffing.

The citations against Exel included six for conduct that OSHA termed willful. This included failure to record injuries properly and not taking required steps to protect the hearing of workers.

The citation against SHS was for failing to train employees on how to handle high-energy equipment.

Excel says it will fight the federal findings. A spokesman for Hershey said the company expects Excel to address the safety concerns identified by OSHA. Excel claims that most of the violations involved record-keeping. But that does not mean the violations are unimportant.

As workers' compensation attorneys well know, however, such violations often indicate the need to improve safety protections across the board. Especially, as in this case, when record-keeping violations went back as many as four years.

Source: "US Labor Dept. finds violations at Hershey distribution center where foreign workers protested," Washington Post, 2-21-12

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