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December 06, 2023
Worker fatalities yield maximum OSHA penalties

A Georgia chemical manufacturer and Massachusetts concrete contractor find themselves facing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines following worker fatalities, the agency announced December 1.

After a 52-year-old leach tank operator suffered fatal chemical and thermal burns over most of his body, OSHA cited Chemical Products Corp. of Cartersville, Georgia, with 5 serious violations, with $55,403 in proposed penalties­—the maximum amount set by federal statute.

Agency inspectors found that the company:

  • Failed to establish energy control (lockout/tagout) procedures, creating thermal and chemical hazards. 
  • Failed to periodically inspect the energy control procedures, at least annually, while employees were tasked with applying lockout/tagout devices.
  • Allowed slip and trip hazards to exist by failing to keep mid-tier catwalks free of corrosion.
  • Exposed employees to entrapment hazards by not clearly marking the routes to emergency exits.
  • Failed to provide readily accessible safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals in the facility. 

The employee—on the job just 2 months—opened an air intake valve to inspect a noise coming from a barium sulfide wash cone with a steam line that was left open the day before. A rush of cold air in the steam line created a bubble that pushed up heated sludge onto the worker, causing fatal burns. A second worker suffered second-degree burns across their upper body.

Before the agency concluded its investigation, OSHA learned that 25 days after the fatal incident, another employee inspecting a leaking gasket under a tank full of sodium hydroxide solution suffered chemical burns when the tank overflowed. The second incident remains under investigation, according to the agency.

“Two serious incidents just weeks apart show that the culture at Chemical Products Corp. must change to emphasize worker safety and health. OSHA will continue to monitor and hold the company accountable until there are changes,” Jeffery Stawowy, OSHA’s Atlanta-West area office director, said in an agency statement.

In October, OSHA announced that its hazard communication standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1910.1200) was its second most frequently cited standard in fiscal year (FY) 2023, which ended September 30. The hazard communication standard, which includes a chemical safety data sheet requirement, was cited 7,271 times. The lockout/tagout standard (§1910.147) was the agency’s sixth most cited standard, cited 2,554 times in FY 2023.

Concrete contractor faces $201K OSHA fine

John Oliveira & Sons Stamp Concrete Inc., an East Freetown, Massachusetts, concrete contractor, faces $200,905 in proposed OSHA penalties after an employee maintaining a soil screener suffered fatal injuries, the agency announced December 1.

Agency inspectors determined that John Oliveira & Sons Stamp Concrete instructed the employee to remove a soil screen on a conveyor, after which the employee was crushed between the conveyor and its frame because the company failed to ensure the conveyor’s power source was disabled to prevent its unintended start-up as the employee performed maintenance.

OSHA cited the company for six violations, including three willful and two serious violations and one other-than-serious violation. Agency investigators found that the company didn’t:

  • Have an energy control (lockout/tagout) program to isolate the conveyor’s power source and prevent an unintended start-up.
  • Provide locks, tags, or other hardware to isolate, secure, or block machines and equipment from their energy sources to prevent sudden starts or moves.
  • Adequately maintain the soil screener, which had numerous defects and missing parts.
  • Forbid employees from riding in a front-end loader’s bucket, exposing them to crush and fall hazards.
  • Record each work-related fatality, injury, or illness case on the OSHA Form 300 or equivalent.

“Employers must develop and rigorously maintain equipment and each element of their energy control plans to identify and minimize hazards and protect workers’ safety and health,” James Mulligan, OSHA’s Braintree, Massachusetts, area office director, said in a statement.

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