Oct 15, 2023

US proposes $270,000 fine for joint venture GM battery plant

[1/2]The new GM logo is seen on the facade of the General Motors headquarters in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., March 16, 2021. Picture taken March 16, 2021. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

WASHINGTON, Oct 12 (Reuters) - U.S. investigators on Thursday proposed $270,000 in fines for a General Motors (GM.N) and LG Energy Solution (373220.KS) joint venture battery plant in Ohio for safety and health violations.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigators examining the cause of a March explosion and fire at the Ultium Cells plant prompted the agency to issue 19 safety and health violations, 17 of them serious.

OSHA inspectors found the company exposed workers to hazards by failing to train them on safety and emergency response procedures and did not comply with federal standards for personal protective equipment use.

Ultium Cells said on Thursday it has taken "safety seriously and have requested a hearing with OSHA, which is the next step in this process."

OSHA said it had also issued a hazard alert letter asking the company to voluntarily reduce accumulations of metal dust and protect employees from unsafe metal dust exposure.

"The company's focus on the future must include an emphasis on workplace safety to ensure the well-being of its employees," OSHA Area Director Howard Eberts in Cleveland said.

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain said the union has "been sounding the alarm for months about Ultium and these high-risk, high-skill EV battery operations. This is dangerous work that deserves to be compensated well."

OSHA said Ultium needs to install required machine guarding, train workers in hazardous energy control and emergency response procedures and make other changes.

The workplace safety agency has one open inspection at the Ultium facility following a June 27 fire and three inquiries, including into a report that the company exposed workers to chemicals after a pressure gauge failed in August resulting in battery slurry leaking onto the plant floor.

Since the Warren, Ohio, facility began battery cell production in August 2022, OSHA has cited the plant 11 times, the agency said.

Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Bill Berkrot and Richard Chang

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.