OSHA to look at Fuyao safety complaints

Workers point to conditions across plant: Open pits, fire hazards and more

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The Dayton Daily News was the first to report in 2014 that Fuyao intended to bring a large manufacturing operation to the Dayton area. We have led the coverage on the manufacturer, including the first to report on worker safety allegations at the plant. Count on us to continue our in-depth coverage.

The director of the Cincinnati Occupational Health and Safety Administration office said his staff will look into allegations of unsafe working conditions at one of the Dayton area’s largest manufacturers.

A group of Fuyao Glass America workers Monday filed a formal written complaint with the regional OSHA office alleging fire and electrical hazards, cutting hazards, open pits, machines without guards and other issues at the West Stroop Road plant.

“I shouldn’t have to go to work and worry about whether I’m going to leave in one piece, whether I’m going to slice my hand open,” said Nicholas Tannenbaum, 25, of Riverside, a Fuyao employee and one of 11 workers who signed the complaint faxed to the area OSHA office.

Plant leaders say safety is their first priority at the plant, and they are cooperating with OSHA, whose investigators have visited the plant several times.

“The only way to make sure the plant is safe is to conduct a wall-to-wall investigation,” the workers’ signed complaint says.

The letter records what it says are fire and electrical hazards, dust and silica that goes unfiltered in glass-cutting and grinding areas, a lack of clearly defined pedestrian walk spaces in a plant increasingly crowded with both contractors and new workers, as well as fall hazards and other conditions the workers say are unsafe.

Among other charges, the complaint alleges that workers who work on laminating glass are cutting themselves seriously enough to require stitches and they aren’t allowed to use safety gloves, two workers told the Dayton Daily News.

The letter asks for a meeting with an OSHA representative.

Ken Montgomery, director of the Cincinnati OSHA office, said he received the written complaint. “It’s signed as a formal complaint,” he said.

“We would address these issues that they’re alleging,” Montgomery said. “We do random employee interviews. They’re confidential.”

He said he will give the letter to his assistant area director and have that person review it. He said that director will check to see if any of the issues alleged in the letter have already been inspected or addressed.

“What has not been (addressed), we will upgrade them for inspection,” Montgomery said.

Dave Burrows, Fuyao Glass America vice president of facilities, said Monday that his company recently hired a supervisor to monitor safety and compliance with OSHA rules in the plant.

“He did a deep dive in the plant … John is a great asset,” Burrows said. “Last week was his first at the plant.”

Workers can speak with supervisors any time they have safety concerns, Burrows said. Just in the plant’s human resources department, there are 10 to 12 people who focus solely on safety and environmental issues, he said.

“We’re open to anything and everything,” Burrows said. “We have a night safety worker who walks the floor.”

That worker gives plant managers a list of concerns or items that he feels deserves attention each morning, Burrows said.

“We’re working on things every day,” he said. With a plant that covers nearly 1.7 million square feet, attention to safety is a full-time job, he added.

Fuyao, the world’s largest auto glass manufacturer, is a Chinese company that bought much of the Moraine plant in 2014. The company is refitting it to be what its owner says will be the world’s largest auto glass manufacturing site.

About 1,400 people work at the plant today; it may have more than 2,000 employees when the plant is fully constructed.

The United Auto Workers, which have been trying to organize workers at the plant, assisted the 11 workers who signed the letter with filing the OSHA complaint. A UAW spokesman said the workers approached them for help.

“It was our idea to file the complaint,” said Cynthia Harper, 55, a Dayton resident who has worked at the plant since May 2015.

Harper is a lamination specialist at Fuyao, working in an area where material — called “PVB or Polyvinyl butyral” material — is placed in laminated or layered glass.

The work involves placing the material into the glass and slicing the material with sharp knives until it is the correct size. Harper said workers are not given safety gloves to prevent cutting themselves.

She said workers have been told not to use gloves, even lint-free gloves, because the gloves can leave fingerprints or residue on the glass.

Harper said that when she and others express concerns to supervisors, they’re told to be “careful.”

“Basically, it’s out of his hands,” Harper said her supervisor told her.

Tannenbaum also works in lamination at the plant. He said he cuts his hands on the job almost daily, but not badly enough to require stitches.

He and Harper say they both know of people who have cut themselves on the job.

“We’re not allowed to wear cut-resistant gloves when we do this job,” Tannenbaum said. “So we cut ourselves. Everyone in this room has cut themselves.”

Harper said she works in a room with a machine that heats and stretches the PVB material. She said the room has no fire extinguisher and only one way in and out.

“I literally fear for my life,” Harper said.

In late April, OSHA officials found what they described as two “serious” safety issues at the Fuyao plant and proposed fines against the company of $14,000. The company said it requested a meeting in which it could present its own evidence against the alleged violations.

Montgomery said Fuyao has contested that first set of citations.

The citations in April involved a lack of machine guarding — or guarding preventing moving machine parts from catching or touching an employee’s hands and fingers — and not securing floor coverings over a grate, an OSHA spokeswoman said.

One of the issues was corrected “on the spot” during an inspection, an OSHA spokeswoman said at the time. OSHA has visited the plant four times, she said then.

No one has been injured at the plant, Fuyao and OSHA officials said in April.

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