Kapco faces $207,000 in OSHA fines

A federal agency recently cited Grafton-based Kapco Inc. with eight safety violations following a February incident that led to the amputation of a portion of an employee’s finger. A similar incident happened one year earlier on the same spot welding machine.

Both incidents occurred at Kapco’s Osceola metal stamping plant.

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing penalties of $207,600. The issued citations consisted of two egregious willful, one repeated, three serious and two other-than-serious safety violations.

“Kapco has consciously placed employees at risk of serious injury to increase production. The company ignored its agreement to protect workers,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire. “OSHA will hold the company responsible for its lack of regard for employee safety and its legal obligation to provide a safe work environment.”

Investigators also found that employees were required to weld thousands of parts a month on spot welding machines with their hands and fingers inches away from the machine’s operating parts during the welding cycle.

Following the 2014 injury, Kapco agreed to manufacture fixtures to hold smaller parts, so that welders would not need to hold the parts with their fingers, near the point of operation. The company also installed hand controls to cycle the machine, but employees were still required to use foot controls while holding parts.

While investigating the February injury, OSHA found that Kapco failed to implement either of the safety measures fully, as agreed. The two willful violations cited the company for failing to guard points of operation on welding machines.

A repeated violation cited the company for failing to install adequate machine guarding on metal coil straighteners and milling machinery, violations the company was cited for previously in July 2014 and May 2013.

Investigators also found three serious violations for failing to use locking devices to prevent the unintentional operation of machinery during service or maintenance, a process known as lockout/tagout.

According to OSHA documents, Kapco failed to notify OSHA of the amputation injury within 24 hours, as required, reporting the amputation five days after it occurred. Additionally, investigators noted that the company did not perform annual inspections of energy control procedures, which resulted in two other-than-serious violations.

Paul Pueschner, operations manager at Kapco’s Osceola facility, provided the following comment regarding the penalties: “We respect OSHA’s responsibilities to maintain a safe work environment for all manufacturers. However, we disagree with their findings. As a manufacturing leader, it is our top priority to provide a safe working environment for all of our employees. Not only have we been compliant in meeting industry standards, we have proactively allocated vast resources to exceed safety protocols in many areas. We are in the process of vigorously appealing OSHA’s findings.”

Kapco employs about 110 workers at the Osceola manufacturing plant and more than 430 at its six Wisconsin manufacturing facilities.

The company has been inspected by OSHA 18 times since 1976. It has received a total of 45 safety violations, including 21 for machine hazards.

In 2013, a worker at the company’s Grafton facility had three fingers amputated on a power press. In another incident in 2014, an employee at the company’s Osceola plant suffered a crushed hand and finger amputation when her hand caught in a metal coil straightening machine that fed a mechanical power press.

Kapco has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director at the Eau Claire area office, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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