The Department of Labor proposed a $270,091 fine against GM and LG Energy Solution’s battery manufacturing joint venture due to 19 health and safety violations at its facility in Warren, Ohio.
The federal agency’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors began investigating Ultium Cells’ after a fire and explosion at the site in March. Following the incident, OSHA opened four inspections at the facility within two weeks.
OSHA inspectors found the Warren facility exposed workers to hazardous conditions after it failed to train workers on safety and emergency response procedures, including regarding the impact of exposure to dangerous chemicals used to produce cathode electrodes for batteries.
The agency also found that Ultium Cells allegedly did not follow federal safety standards requirements regarding the use of personal protective equipment, including respirators. OSHA investigated the facility between April 24 and May 5.
As part of the corrective action Ultium must take to address the safety violations, OSHA ordered the company to reduce the accumulation of aluminum dust at the facility and protect employees from dangerous dust exposure, according to the agency’s Sept. 8 letter to the battery maker.
“Ultium Cells’ technology and advanced manufacturing facilities are part of a new and emerging field but workplace safety standards — such as machine guarding, personal protective equipment and emergency response training — have been the law for decades,” OSHA Area Director Howard Eberts said in a statement. “The company’s focus on the future must include an emphasis on workplace safety to ensure the well-being of its employees.”
The agency has cited the Warren plant more than 10 times since it opened in August 2022. It is still actively inspecting the factory following a June 27 fire, as well as an inquiry into whether Ultium Cells exposed workers to airborne chemicals in the cathode mixing area in August this year.
The complaints have also been a part of the United Auto Workers’ negotiations with the GM and LG Energy Solution joint venture. The labor union released a white paper in July citing the OSHA complaints and injuries some union members suffered from chemical exposures as reason for raising health and safety standards at the plant.
“Our commitment to safety is paramount, and we make it a point to work closely and collaboratively with state and federal officials, as well as our local union leadership, to ensure we are operating in accordance with all relevant regulations,” Ultium Cells said in a statement regarding an OSHA citation letter it received Oct. 5. “We take safety seriously and have requested a hearing with OSHA, which is the next step in this process.”