The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the Ford Motor Company’s Buffalo Stamping Plant in Hamburg, N.Y., with an alleged willful violation of safety standards for not repairing or removing unsafe overhead cranes from service. The citation follows an OSHA inspection opened in January 2010 in response to a complaint from workers at the plant.

OSHA standards require that employers inspect cranes to identify unsafe conditions and remove the cranes from operation until the hazards are corrected. OSHA's inspection found five instances where overhead cranes used to lift and set dies or lift coils of steel were allowed to remain in service after defects were identified during inspections conducted in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The defects included worn brake drums, loose or sheared coupling bolts, and worn or damaged gears.

"Management's ongoing knowledge of and failure to correct these repeatedly recognized defects exposed workers to potential crushing injuries had one or more of these cranes failed," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director for western New York. "It should not take an OSHA inspection and enforcement action to prompt an employer to complete necessary repairs that should have been made months, even years, ago."

The willful citation carries a proposed fine of $70,000. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for worker safety and health.

"One means of preventing hazards such as these is to establish an effective comprehensive workplace safety and health program, in which workers and employers work together to proactively evaluate, identify and eliminate hazardous conditions," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

Ford 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.