The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed penalties totaling $76,500 against Savannah Luggage Works, a Vidalia, Ga., manufacturer of military and commercial products, including body armor vests.

The Labor Department proposed a fine of $63,000 against the company for willfully failing to provide machine guards to protect employees and penalties of $13,500 for four other serious safety violations.

"Despite warnings and the company's own experiences, management chose not to undertake a basic and easily implemented action that could prevent employees from being injured while operating mechanical rivet/snap machines," said John J. Deifer, OSHA's area director in Savannah.

The willful violation was issued after OSHA inspectors determined that the company did not take corrective action despite having been notified by a safety consultant in 1993 that the machine guards were necessary. Two employees have been injured as a result of the missing guards, which came with the original equipment that was purchased but were later removed from the machines.

The four serious safety violations included exposing employees to electric start-up hazards by not implementing a lockout program, exposing employees to electrical shocks by using a metal-cased duplex electrical receptacle, not providing guards on machine drive pulleys and belts, and not having a written exposure control plan for employees assigned as first-aid responders.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to contest them and the proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.