The processor known for its controversial approach to handling CRT glass has been fined more than $100,000 for an alleged series of worker safety violations cited at its Plainfield, Ill. plant.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued 26 “serious” violations on Sept. 22 to Kuusakoski U.S., the American wing of the Finnish metals company Kuusakoski Recycling. The fines, totaling $114,800, stemmed from a May inspection of Kuusakoski U.S.’s Midwest headquarters in Plainfield, Ill.
According to the report from OSHA, employees in a section of the facility were exposed to “high levels” of lead and cadmium due to a variety of safety lapses by Kuusakoski, including failing to properly train employees, provide them with protective clothing or implement a respiratory protection program.
Kuusakoski, which is best known for turning treated CRT glass into alternative daily cover as well as a new storage method for the material on the grounds of a landfill, was given 14 days to either pay the penalty or schedule a meeting with OSHA to discuss and, possibly, challenge the findings.
Rich Hipp, the CEO of Kuusakoski U.S., said his team is in the process of scheduling a meeting to address the violations.
“Do I agree with it? Absolutely not. Are we going to defend ourselves? Yes, absolutely we are,” Hipp said. “We’re looking at every and all options to do so. We’re going to schedule a meeting with OSHA and I’m very confident that we are going to demonstrate the leaders that we are in addressing this issue.”
“We take it very, very seriously and we are constantly investing in our employees and not in just being complaint, but continually improving,” Hipp added.
According to OSHA’s inspection report, which details the nature of all 26 violations cited, employees mainly in the “Zorba area” of the facility were exposed to lead and cadmium above the federally-regulated limits. In addition to other infractions, noise levels in a separate area also exceeded federal limits and surfaces in the lunch and locker rooms were not properly cleaned, the report states.
According to Hipp, the safety protocols in place at the facility in Plainfield take shape in a number of ways, including daily meetings with staff members, an on-site compliance manager, training for new employees and an in-house air-monitoring system.
“Not only do we invest in safety in the context of meeting every day with the team, but we have a dedicated environmental compliance manager at staff at this location and a safety manager,” Hipp said. “We go through a very rigorous training process for all of our hires. We have our own air-monitoring equipment that we’ve invested in, so we have ongoing testing of our air quality.”
Hipp said “no CRTs are being processed at this facility.” According to Hipp, the facility serves as an “end processor” of a variety of demanufactured and crushed commodities and metals.
Last year, the company acquired processor Vintage Tech to provide “coast-to-coast” recycling services in the U.S.