OSHA Cites Two Maine Employers Following Explosion

July 22, 2004

A Jan. 9, 2004, explosion at an Orrington, Maine, trash-to-energy plant that cost a worker his left hand could have been prevented if proper procedures for protecting workers had been followed, reports OSHA.

OSHA has issued citations and proposed penalties for alleged violations of safety standards to PSC Industrial Outsourcing North Atlantic Inc. of Portland, an industrial cleaning and maintenance service, and ESOCO Orrington Inc., which operates the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company's trash-to-energy plant in Orrington.

ESOCO had hired PSC to remove slag from boiler tubes at the plant. In the deslagging process, a "shooter" places primed explosive charges in the boiler. After the "shooter" exits the boiler, the charges are then detonated from outside by a second worker. The accident occurred when one charge was detonated while the worker was still placing charges inside the boiler.

OSHA's inspection found that PSC did not require the shooter to leave the tank before each detonation, even though a PSC employee had been killed in a similar incident in Alma, Wisc., in Aug. 2001 and the company was aware that OSHA standards and industry practice require workers to leave the tank before detonation. As a result, OSHA has issued a willful citation to PSC, carrying the maximum fine of $70,000, for failing to remove the worker from inside the boiler prior to each detonation. A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.

PSC was also issued eleven serious citations, carrying $41,000 in fines, for allowing workers to make and store explosive components in the only path of egress and make up more primed charges than required, not protecting employees against noise during explosions, not providing barricades and a pre-blast warning signal, fall hazards, inadequate communication between employees working in and outside the boiler and confined space hazards.

ESOCO Orrington was issued four serious citations, with fines of $11,000, for not ensuring barricades, warning signs and a pre-blast signal, not inspecting self contained breathing apparatus monthly and not having a written exposure control program for bloodborne pathogens. A serious violation is defined as a condition that exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

Each employer has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




OSHA Debuts Electronic Assistance Tool on Ammonia Refrigeration

OSHA launched a web-based assistance tool to help workers and employers identify and control hazards associated with the operation and maintenance of ammonia refrigeration systems.

The Ammonia Refrigeration "eTool" is a direct result of Alliances between OSHA and The Dow Chemical Company and the American Meat Institute. The tool consists of two initial modules: Ammonia Receiving and Storage, and Emergency Response. Later stages of the product will include the condenser area, piping and pressure vessels, refrigeration spaces, and the machine room.

Anhydrous ammonia is widely used as a refrigerant in many industrial facilities. Industries that use ammonia refrigeration systems include: meat, poultry, and fish processing facilities; dairy and ice cream plants; wineries and breweries; fruit juice, vegetable juice, and soft drink processing facilities; cold storage warehouses; other food processing facilities; and petrochemical facilities. Accidental releases of ammonia from these facilities have resulted in both injuries and deaths to workers. Because refrigeration systems operate at elevated pressures, additional care must be taken to maintain and operate these systems safely in order to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences.

The eTool discusses ammonia hazards and recommended controls of various receivers and storage vessels, and also provides details on emergency response and first aid in the event of accidents. A plant safety checklist is also included, as is an extensive resource section featuring standards of major national consensus organizations associated with the industry, e.g., American Chemistry Council, International Institute for Ammonia Refrigeration, American Standards for Mechanical Engineers, and more.

The Ammonia Refrigeration eTool supplements a Safety and Health Topics Pageon the same issue.




Plastics Company Assessed $123,450 in Proposed Penalties for Alleged Workplace Safety Violations

OSHA has issued citations and proposed penalties to Plastic Components Inc. of North Ridgeville, Ohio, for a variety of alleged workplace safety violations that posed threats to workers.

The penalty and OSHA citations are based on an inspection initiated in January 2004 following a formal complaint about hazards at the custom plastic molding manufacturing and assembly plant. During that inspection, OSHA officials determined that injury trends indicated a high incidence of hand and finger lacerations.

As a result of that inspection, OSHA issued citations for 11 alleged serious violations and two alleged willful violations of federal workplace safety and health regulations. Serious violations included allegations of absent machine guarding, operation of defective forklift trucks, and failure to require and enforce the use of eye, face and hand protection, among others. Alleged willful violations addressed obstructed emergency exits, work areas, and aisles used for pedestrian and mechanical equipment traffic.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




OSHA Cites Lee Brass for Exposing Workers to Health and Safety Hazards

OSHA has proposed a $122,200 fine against Lee Brass Company for exposing workers to health and safety hazards observed during a January 2004 inspection. The company manufactures brass plumbing fittings and valves, and operates two foundries and a smelter in Anniston, Ala., where approximately 240 workers are employed.

OSHA issued one willful citation, with a proposed penalty of $49,500, for failure to require workers to wear respirators when exposed to lead above permissible levels. The agency also issued citations for alleged serious violations of safety and health standards, with proposed penalties of $72,700. These included failure to implement controls to reduce employee exposure to silica and lead, failure to implement an adequate respiratory protection program, failure to provide required machine guarding, and failure to develop and implement a lockout-tagout program to make machinery inoperable during maintenance or repair.

Lee Brass Company has 15 working days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA conducted the inspection under terms of a partnership with the Molten Metal Industry Employers in Alabama and the Alabama Safe State Consultation Program. Aimed at protecting molten metal industry workers from exposure to silica, lead and noise, the partnership calls for randomly selected inspections of companies in the industry.




OSHA Unveils New Web Page on Whistleblower Program

OSHA has launched The Whistleblower Program webpage to provide a single source for obtaining detailed information on the laws with whistleblower protections that are administered by OSHA.

The new page consolidates a variety of whistleblower information previously available on the website, and supplements that with access to other resources, including the Office of Administrative Law Judges, and the Administrative Review Board.

The webpage includes direct links to the 14 laws with whistleblower protections administered by the agency, and lists the regulations governing the procedures for handling complaints under the various statutes. Detailed procedures on filing workplace discrimination complaints are provided, as is direct access to five separate OSHA fact sheets that focus on the whistleblower program.

OSHA's whistleblower protection responsibilities have grown from one statute (Section 11(c) of the OSH Act) to a total of 14 laws, the latest being the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, and the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.