The U.S. Dept. of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing fines totaling $255,150 against firearms manufacturer Sturm Ruger & Co. Inc. for 60 alleged violations of safety and health standards identified during inspections of the company’s Newport, N.H., plant. The inspections were conducted between November 2008 and May 2009.

OSHA’s New Hampshire area director Rosemarie Ohar said the agency’s inspectors identified numerous mechanical, respirator protection, electrical, lead, fire, explosive, and other hazards. She said the conditions “must be effectively and continuously addressed to protect the workers at this plant from potentially deadly or disabling injuries and illnesses now and in the future.”

OSHA alleges Sturm Ruger failed to guard rotating parts on drill presses, sanding, and polishing machines, despite knowing that employees were vulnerable to severe or fatal injuries. This resulted in one citation for a “willful” violation, carrying fines of $63,000. A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one “committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.”

There were additional safety hazards discovered, too. These include a lack of spark detectors or suppression systems to minimize fire and explosion hazards in ventilation systems that collect combustible wood and metal dust; allowing combustible dust to accumulate; unguarded floors and platforms; lack of eyewashes and adequate personal protective equipment; inadequate procedures, equipment and training to lock out machines' power sources; improper storage of compressed gas cylinders; damaged, improperly used or ungrounded electrical equipment; additional unguarded machinery; and deficiencies with paint spray booths, confined space rescue, compressed air, forklifts and the transfer of flammable liquids.

Also, OSHA’s health inspection found that employees were exposed to excess levels of lead dust; inadequate lead monitoring, training, hygiene, cleaning and disposal methods; inappropriate selection of respirators for lead; improper respirator fit-testing and use; no medical evaluations for employees using respirators; no refitting and retraining for employees who experienced a hearing threshold shift; and unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals.

These conditions resulted in 55 “serious” citations, carrying proposed fines totaling $188,550. A serious violation is defined by OSHA a one that may likely result in “death or serious physical harm” and about which the employer knew or should have known.

In addition, Sturm Ruger was issued four other-than-serious citations for inadequate recordkeeping. For these, fines of $3,600 were proposed.

As per regulation, Sturm Ruger was given 15 business days from the receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with the area director, or contest them to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.