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Granite countertop maker fined $87,000 by OSHA

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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited and proposed fines of more than $87,000 against a Massachusetts-based granite countertop manufacturer after it failed to correct recurring safety hazards.

Agency inspectors conducted a follow-up examination in June at Acton, Massachusetts-based Mass-Granite Inc., which does business as Mass Granite & Marble, to verify the correction of hazards identified during a 2014 inspection, OSHA said in a press release issued Thursday. The agency previously cited the company for six violations in September 2014 and levied $8,500 in fines for hazardous conditions that Mass Granite failed to prove had been corrected, according to the release.

The uncorrected hazards included lack of a hearing conservation program for employees exposed to high noise levels, failure to implement testing to determine if employees had sustained hearing loss and the lack of a chemical hazard communication program, according to the agency.

The follow-up inspection also identified new hazards, including unsafe storage of large granite pieces, lack of eye, hand and head protection, failure to inspect fire extinguishers and electrical hazards, according to the citations.

“Mass-Granite Inc. has repeatedly failed to provide a safe working environment for its employees,” Anthony Covello, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties in Massachusetts, said in the statement. “These new and recurring hazards expose Mass-Granite Inc. employees to potential hearing loss, crushing injuries, hazardous chemicals, eye, hand and face injuries, falls, fire, electric shock, lacerations, or amputation. Additionally, the company continues to put workers at risk of being unable to exit the workplace swiftly in the event of an emergency.”

OSHA proposed $57,200 in penalties, plus another $30,000 for failing to abate the alleged violations.

Owner Igor Garcia called OSHA's citations and proposed penalties “absurd” and expressed frustration with the agency's approach, particularly toward a small business owner such as himself. After the previous inspection, Mr. Garcia said he spent thousands of dollars purchasing new machines to address the hearing hazards identified by OSHA.

He vowed to appeal the citations and proposed fines within the prescribed 15-day period.

“I'm not paying them that amount,” he said. “It's not coming out of my pocket. It's not coming out of my bank account.”

Mr. Garcia said he does not own, but rents the building his business is located in and should not be penalized for violations such as a lack of railings on stairways, which OSHA deemed a serious violation carrying a $2,200 fine. He also said his employees should not have to wear hard hats because there are no overhead hazards, which also represented a serious citation with a $2,200 fine from OSHA.

“Some fines don't make sense,” Mr. Garcia said, adding that he would shut down the business and lay off his two employees rather than pay the fines.

“That's what I'm willing to do if that's what it takes,” he said. “I'm not paying $57,000 when my net profit from the business is $50,000.”