Fuyao workers allege safety problems at plant

Written complaint sent to OSHA Monday

A group of Fuyao Glass America workers have filed a formal written complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging an array of unsafe working conditions at Fuyao’s Moraine plant.

Though OSHA investigators have visited the plant several times, the letter is presented as a formal complaint requesting a wider OSHA investigation.

“The only way to make sure the plant is safe is to conduct a wall-to-wall investigation,” says the letter, signed by 11 Fuyao workers and faxed to OSHA’s Cincinnati-area office Monday morning.

The letter records what it claims 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 an increasingly crowded plant, 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, confirmed that he received the written complaint. “It’s signed as 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 assistant 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 an OSHA compliance officer.

“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 1.675 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 2,000 employees when the plant is fully constructed.

“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 material,” is placed in laminated or layered glass. The work involves cutting with sharp knives. 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.

Nicholas Tannenbaum, 25, of Riverside, 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.”

In late April, Occupational Safety and Health Administration 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.

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.

Fuyao managers have said they’re aware that the union has been trying to recruit members at the plant.

“They’re a business like any other,” Burrows said of the UAW. “They need money.”

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