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June 26, 2013
OSHA says employer showed 'complete disregard' for workers

OSHA has cited a hazardous waste treatment facility and levied heavy fines in the wake of a tragic fire and explosion. The incident killed one worker and severely burned another. The agency did not hold back in its reaction to the employer’s “complete disregard for employees’ safety and health.” According to OSHA, the company failed to recognize and train employees on the potentially dangerous interactions between materials being handled and tools in use.

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The cause of the fire and explosion was the ignition of an industrial filter cartridge filled with sodium chlorate. The likely source of the ignition was an electrically powered reciprocating saw. OSHA defended its heavy citations, noting that even after the incident, which took place late last year, the company did not take steps to ensure that employees knew how to handle hazardous waste and how to use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

The company was fined more than $300,000 and placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). The SVEP focuses on employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations.

Hazardous waste is called ‘hazardous’ for a reason

It’s your duty to establish safe chemical handling rules and to make sure your employees understand and follow them. Here’s what they should be doing:

  • Follow all established rules, and perform job duties as you’ve been trained.
  • Be cautious and plan ahead, thinking about what might go wrong.
  • Use required PPE, and inspect it carefully before each use.
  • Make sure all containers are properly labeled.
  • Read labels and safety data sheets (SDSs).
  • Never eat or drink while handling hazardous materials.
  • Store all materials properly, separate those that are incompatible, and keep in ventilated, dry, cool areas.
  • Keep yourself and your work area clean.
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