Ford Motor Co. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for eight violations covering asbestos exposure at a stamping plant in Buffalo, N.Y.
OSHA said Ford could face up to $41,800 in fines for failing to protect workers from asbestos-containing material at the plant, the agency said Wednesday.
OSHA inspectors reported that a pipefitter was exposed to asbestos-containing material in the insulation of a steam line he was working on. In addition, respiratory protection was not worn by workers who were exposed to asbestos-containing material, and their work area was not properly organized to limit the amount of employees working in the area, the agency said.
Asbestos-contained areas were not properly cordoned off, and airborne levels of the hazardous mineral were not properly monitored, OSHA said.
Violations are defined as "serious" when death or significant injury to workers is likely from a problem that Ford knew or should have known about, according to the agency. Breathing asbestos fibers can lead to asbestosis, a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs that often leads to loss of lung function, according to OSHA's website. Exposure to asbestos can also cause lung cancer or mesothelioma of the pleura, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the lining of the lung or stomach.
A Ford spokeswoman said the company takes the safety of its workers very seriously but doesn't believe it should have been cited.
"We have fully cooperated with the local OSHA officials and we don't believe the citations are warranted," she said. "We'll work with the government to resolve the matter in an appropriate manner."
Ford has 15 business days from when it received the citations to comply, meet with local OSHA officials, or contest the citations.
The factory employs 537 workers, Ford said. An official with the UAW, which represents workers at the plant, could not immediately be reached for comment.