MILWAUKEE — A federal agency that investigates workplace safety has opened an inspection into a second industrial drum refurbishing plant in the Milwaukee area.

The action by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration comes six months after employees at Mid-America Steel Drum in Oak Creek reported dangerous working conditions, and follows inspections by environmental regulators who uncovered numerous violations.

Workers at a chain of barrel refurbishing plants in Wisconsin and other states have reported chemical and heat-related burns, injuries from exploding barrels, breathing difficulties and other health problems, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported .

OSHA began an inspection into the Mid-America Steel Drum plant in St. Francis on Aug. 3. The inspection of the Oak Creek facility began Aug. 17.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) has applauded the agency’s latest actions.

“Since February, I have repeatedly requested that OSHA investigate these facilities,” she said. “I am pleased that after pressing for OSHA to do its job, they have finally opened up an investigation into the Oak Creek facility.”

The state Department of Natural Resources inspected three Milwaukee-area facilities earlier this year and cited the company for nearly 20 violations.

The company was cited for handling hazardous water without permits, failing to keep required records, misrepresenting information on permit applications, sending hazardous ash to landfills not permitted to receive it and continuing to send putrid odors over neighborhoods three years after similar smells were recorded.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted an inspection in May, but those results haven’t yet been released.

The plants are operated by a joint venture majority owned by Ohio-based Greif Inc. The plants clean steel drums and large plastic chemical containers for reuse or recycling. The company has said it’s committed to safety and would work closely with regulators “to uphold that commitment.”


Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com