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Ford Motor Co. is facing a proposed fine of $70,000 from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for allegedly not repairing or removing unsafe overhead cranes from service at its Hamburg stamping plant.

OSHA cited Ford for a "willful" violation of safety standards. The agency said it opened an inspection in January in response to a complaint from plant workers.

Art Dube, OSHA's area director, said Ford received the citation Saturday. Dube said his office has not yet received a response from the automaker.

OSHA defines a "willful" violation as "one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for worker safety and health." The maximum possible penalty for a willful violation is $70,000.

OSHA said its inspection found five instances in which overhead cranes used to lift and set dies or lift coils of steel wire were allowed to remain in service after defects were found during company inspections in 2008, 2009 and this year. The defects included worn brake drums, loose or sheared coupling bolts and worn or damaged gears, the agency said.

If one of the cranes had failed, workers at the Route 5 plant would have been at risk of suffering crushing injuries, Dube said.

Ford said it is reviewing the citation.

"The health and safety of our employees is our highest priority," said John Stoll, a Ford spokesman. "We are looking into this specific issue raised by OSHA at Buffalo Stamping and will respond to the matter in a timely manner."

Ford has 15 business days from receiving its citation and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The plant stamps metal parts for a number of Ford Motor Co. vehicles, including the Edge and Flex, and the Lincoln MKX and MKT.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com