An administrative law judge confirmed the citation. PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK
California regulators are pushing for penalties of USD308,435 for National Distribution Center LP's repeated violations involving safety of employees working near dozens of forklifts.
The Cherry Hill, New Jersey-based warehousing and logistics company, doing business under NFI as a subsidiary of NFI Industries Inc, was cited for the same violation in 2012, but failed to comply with an obligation under an agreement with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA.
The case began in July 2012 following receipt of a complaint. Cal/OSHA's San Bernardino office inspected the firm's 599,340 sqft. (55,680 sqm) Mira Loma cross-docking facility and issued citations. The Mira Loma site has 450 employees.
One serious citation found that employees were exposed to injuries because they did not have appropriate foot protection when working near forklifts. Cal/OSHA also cited the need to replace worn and faded paint stripes that delineate pedestrian aisles and forklift aisles. Inspectors observed forklifts driving through the pedestrian aisles to reach the dock doors.
NFI appealed the citations to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board but later withdrew its challenge of the foot protection violation. An administrative law judge signed an order in January 2014 approving a settlement of the case and affirming the citation. In February, NFI and Cal/OSHA met to discuss abatement options.
Cal/OSHA, however, conducted a follow-up inspection on 25 March, following a report that a forklift ran over a worker's foot and broke a toe.
The division says NFI had purchased non-compliant foot coverings but had not distributed the protection to the workers. Cal/OSHA calculated additional penalties based on the number of days the company exposed workers to foot hazards.
"Had NFI followed through on its obligation to provide proper foot protection two years ago when this was first brought to their attention, the additional penalties would not have been needed," says Juliann Sum, acting Cal/OSHA chief. "Forklift operation is the biggest single cause of serious injury to workers' feet. NFI ignored this hazard." Cal/OSHA is a unit of the California Department of Industrial Relations.