A Newton, Iowa, company that builds wind turbine blades has settled with state regulators following an investigation into workplace safety violations.
TPI Composites agreed last month to pay the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration a total of $100,000 in fines, the Des Moines Register reported.
The settlement requires TPI to restrict employee contact with hazardous chemicals, eliminate fall dangers and alter how the factory stores combustible liquids. The company has adopted new polyethylene suits to protect workers against the chemicals.
“I think the settlement has done an effective job of making TPI in Newton, Iowa, a safer place to work,” said Don Peddy, who oversees the Iowa OSHA program.
Iowa regulators gave TPI until Aug. 31 to fix all of the residual safety hazards.
Iowa OSHA levied nearly $155,000 in fines against TPI last year due violations that include fire dangers, airborne contaminants, improper record keeping, fall hazards and a shortage of adequate protective gear for employees.
The citations support complaints from dozens of former workers who said TPI didn’t properly protect them from dangerous chemicals that caused them severe skin injuries. Some workers said they were fired after reporting the injuries.
TPI doesn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement but the company agreed to pay fines in order to settle the matter “economically and amicably,” according to the settlement agreement.
Despite the state resolution, TPI still faces lawsuits in Iowa’s civil court system.
Six former employees have sued TPI for gross negligence, breach of contract and fraud, alleging that the company created a “systematic practice of hiring healthy employees and then terminating them from employment after their employees sustained a chemical injury.”
TPI has denied the accusations. The court cases for those claims have been postponed while the Iowa Supreme Court decides on an appeal from a lower court.
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