OSHA issued 15 serious citations to Reddy Ice of East Point, Ga. and proposed $57,200 in total penalties following the agency's investigation of a July 24 ammonia release that sent four workers to the hospital.
On the day of the incident, employees at the ice manufacturing facility had finished changing electrical controls on a compressor and were in the process of restarting the motor when a buildup of pressure in the compressor caused a valve to rupture, blowing metal parts and ammonia into the air.
"This accident could have been avoided if the company had followed requirements of the process safety management standard and conducted a safety review before making modifications to the compressor," said Andre Richards, OSHA's Atlanta-West area director.
In 1992, OSHA issued the standard to protect employees from the hazards associated with certain chemicals, such as ammonia. This regulation requires companies to develop, implement, and update plans analyzing potential risks, outline procedures to minimize those factors and properly train employees on how to avoid exposure.
OSHA cited the company for failing to have an emergency action plan; failing to conduct a safety review before beginning modifications to equipment and failing to have an air pressure gauge on the compressed air receiver. The company was also cited for failing to have written programs for process safety management, respiratory protection, confined space entry and hazard communication. All of these programs require that employees receive appropriate training.
The company has 15 working days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA OFFERS TIPS TO PROTECT WORKERS IN COLD ENVIRONMENTS
With temperatures across the country at or near record lows, OSHA is reminding workers and employers to take necessary precautions.
Prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures can result in serious health problems such as trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. In extreme cases, including cold water immersion, exposure can result in death. Danger signs include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue and confused behavior. If these signs are observed, call for emergency help.
OSHA's Cold Stress Card provides a quick reference guide and recommendations. Available in English and Spanish, this laminated fold-up card is free to employers, workers and the public. Among the tips on the card are:
- Recognize environmental and workplace conditions that can be dangerous.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses/injuries and what
to do to help workers.
- Train workers about cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
- Encourage workers to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy
conditions including layers so they can adjust to changing conditions.
- Be sure that workers take frequent short breaks in warm dry shelters to
allow the body to warm up.
- Try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day.
- Avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
- Use the buddy system -- work in pairs so that one worker can recognize
- Drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks) and avoid
drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
- Eat warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes.
- Remember, workers face increased risks when they take certain medications,
are in poor physical condition or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes,
hypertension or cardiovascular disease.
For free copies of OSHA's Cold Stress Card in English or Spanish, call
LACK OF WORKER PROTECTION AT STEEL PLANT LEADS TO OSHA CITATIONS
OSHA cited the United States Steel Corporation, Fairfield Works, issuing one repeat and17 serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $87,500, following three separate inspections of the facility.
OSHA began an investigation Aug. 13, after being notified of an Aug. 3 accident at the plant that resulted in the amputation of a worker's feet. According to agency findings, the employee was standing on a coiled metal strip helping to lower the top of a dryer tank when an operator activated a mechanism that pulled the strip and the worker's feet into machine rollers.
The company received seven serious citations, including failing to use proper lockout/tagout procedures that would have rendered the machinery inoperable before maintenance work began. Proposed penalties for these citations are $33,500.
"Following the OSHA requirement to make the machine inoperable could have prevented this accident," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's Birmingham area director. "The OSHA lockout/tagout standard was developed to protect workers
from this type of accident."
After completion of the accident investigation, OSHA was informed of additional unsafe working conditions at the plant. Investigations, conducted on Sept. 17 and Oct. 22, resulted in one alleged repeat and 10 alleged serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $54,000. The company was cited for repeated failure to protect workers from safety hazards associated with the use of electrical power. The serious safety hazards included lack of machine guarding; exposing employees to falls from stairs, elevated working surfaces and slips on floors; improper labeling of hazardous chemicals; lack of confined space entry procedures and improper handling and storage of compressed gas cylinders.
The Pittsburgh, Pa.-based company has 15 working days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The agency issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
FAILURE TO ABATE SAFETY HAZARDS BRINGS ADDITIONAL OSHA PENALTIES
OSHA has cited J.T.S. Woodworking, Inc. for failing to correct safety hazards identified during a September inspection of the company's Delray Beach facility. The agency is proposing additional penalties of $27,800.
During a Sept. 10 inspection of the custom-made wood cabinetry shop, OSHA found employees in the finishing section exposed to hazards from paint and lacquer vapors; improperly stored flammable materials, and an excessive accumulation of paint in the spray booths. The agency issued six serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $7,250.
On Dec.17, after the company failed to respond to agency inquiries for documentation verifying that the hazardous conditions had been corrected, a follow-up inspection was conducted. Investigators found three uncorrected hazards; three hazards that had been allowed to re-occur, and a new electrical hazard.
"This company was given adequate time to correct hazardous conditions cited in September, but did little or nothing to improve plant safety," said Luis Santiago, OSHA's Ft. Lauderdale area director. "OSHA's primary purpose in citing a company is to protect workers by correcting hazards that could cause future accidents or injuries."
The agency cited the company, and proposed $17,000 in penalties, for failure to abate cited hazards that exposed employees to harmful fumes because they were not properly fitted and instructed in the use of respirators, and for hazards associated with the build-up of paint, lacquer and debris in spray booths. The company also continued to have no hazard communication program to provide information to workers about potentially dangerous substances in their work place.
Three repeat citations were issued for hazards that had been allowed to re-occur: containers used to transfer flammable liquids were not properly connected or grounded and were stored near electrical panels, a potential ignition source. Penalties totaling $8,400 were proposed for the repeat violations, which OSHA may charge when an employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition.
Also, during the follow-up inspection, employees were observed using handheld electrical tools with frayed and damaged cords, for which OSHA issued a serious citation with a proposed penalty of $2,000.
The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA CITES GROCERY CHAIN FOR SAFETY HAZARDS FROM DOUGH MIXERS
The failure of a grocery store chain to fulfill an agreement to protect employees from hazards on their vertical dough mixers has resulted in citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) against Tidyman's Grocery stores in Montana. Proposed penalties total $100,000.
"Safety standards for guarding heavy machinery are designed to prevent accidents and loss of life," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "The Tidyman stores have once again agreed to follow these standards. OSHA is going to verify that they live up to their word this time."
OSHA's area office in Billings issued one repeat violation to each of ten Montana Tidyman's stores as well as one serious violation and four other-than-serious violations. The citations resulted from an investigation that began July 25 after the area office received information that the company did not comply with a citation issued more than two years ago requiring guards on their vertical dough mixers.
The mixers range in size from 20 to 140 quart capacities and have dough hooks and other stirring devices that are powered by powerful electric motors. Commonly know as Hobart mixers, they are found in workplaces such as pizza parlors and bakeries. "These machines can seriously injure anyone who is caught by the dough hook," said David DiTommaso, OSHA area director in Billings.
Tidyman's is a Spokane-based chain generally known as County Markets throughout the state. OSHA cited the chain's store in Billings in November 2000 for failure to guard its mixers. In a settlement with OSHA, the company agreed to provide guards for the machines in each of its Montana stores by May 2002. When OSHA learned that only one store had guarded the mixers by that deadline, it inspected all 11 stores in the state and issued the fines.
"Tidyman's now has agreed to guard not only the mixers in their Montana stores but also those in their Idaho and Washington locations," said DiTommaso. The company also has agreed to correct the serious violation issued by unplugging the machines or de-energizing and locking out the devices whenever the guards have to be removed for cleaning or maintenance.
The agreement affects 22 Tidyman's stores in the three state area including three in Billings, two in Great Falls and one each in Sidney, Miles City, Kalispell, Missoula, Helena and Livingston.
WORKER'S DEATH AT BRINGS OSHA PENALTIES OF $175,000
A Houston sheet metal fabrication shop's failure to implement procedures to prevent the accidental startup of a waste handling machine contributed to the death of an employee, according to citations issued by OSHA.
"This company had been cited by OSHA in the past for similar violations," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "Following the appropriate safety standards might have prevented this accident."
Campo Sheet Metal Works Inc, a manufacturer of various metal works, was fined $175,000 for four alleged willful and two alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, following an investigation at the company's Houston facility on Lindbergh that began July 29, 2002, in response to the 17-year-old employee's death. The company employs about 49 workers.
According to Raymond Skinner, OSHA's Houston South area director, the willful citations were for failing to develop and implement a "lockout/tag-out" program. Lockout/tag-out involves shutting off and locking out the energy source to a machine that is undergoing maintenance or repair to prevent an accidental startup. The company failed to train workers against the hazards of releasing stored energy, failed to conduct annual inspections of the employees as they performed the lockout/tag-out
procedures to identify weaknesses in the program, and failed to remove employees to a safe position before equipment is energized.
A willful violation is defined as an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the OSHA law and regulations.
The two serious violations were for failing to train employees and require the use of personal protective equipment.
The employer has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to either comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.