The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed a total of $357,300 in fines against UCB Manufacturing Inc. for alleged willful and serious violations of workplace health and safety standards at its Rochester, N.Y., pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. The citations chiefly concern the company's failure to address hazards for workers whose duties involve exposure to methylene chloride, a potential carcinogen.

OSHA's inspection found that some plant employees were exposed to excess levels of methylene chloride, and the company did not have effective controls and work practices to reduce those exposure levels. In addition, the company did not supply the workers with appropriate respirators, and failed to provide all required monitoring, medical surveillance and information about methylene chloride. These conditions resulted in the issuance of six willful citations, with $351,000 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for worker safety and health.

"These sizable fines reflect the gravity of these hazards and the employer's knowledge of and failure to correct them," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director for western New York. "Employees exposed to methylene chloride are at increased risk of developing cancer, adverse effects on the heart, central nervous system and liver, and skin or eye irritation. Effective safeguards are vital to the health and well-being of the workers."

OSHA also found that the plant failed to determine each employee's exposure to methylene chloride, develop and inspect hazardous energy control procedures for all equipment, and inform employees of the existence, location and availability of exposure and monitoring records. As a result, OSHA has issued three serious citations with $6,300 in fines. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

"One means of preventing hazards such as these is for employers to establish an effective comprehensive workplace safety and health program in which their workers take an active role in evaluating, identifying and eliminating hazards," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

Detailed information on methylene chloride is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/methylenechloride/index.html. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.