The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) cited an Alabama chemical manufacturing plant after two workers died and another was sickened after being exposed to dangerous respiratory hazards. The manufacturer faces $232K in penalties for 10 violations, including failure to provide appropriate personal protective equipment and implement safe work practices for maintenance of chemical processing equipment.
An OSHA investigation found that chemical manufacturer exposed three chemical operators to toxic fluorocarbon and other hazardous chemicals that caused the workers to suffer respiratory failure on July 2, 2021.
The three employees were treated for respiratory failure at local hospitals, where one worker died on Aug. 10, 2021, and the other on Sept. 28, 2021. The surviving worker spent nearly a week in the hospital before returning home.
The workers were conducting maintenance activities that included requiring a processing line break, a nitrogen purge, and an atmosphedairic venting of equipment that resulted in the release of toxic chemicals into the air.
In addition to failing to provide proper PPE and implement safe work practices, the company also failed to perform air monitoring to assess chemical exposures, provide written procedures to clearly identify the required level of respiratory protection, and communicate the hazards associated with the chemicals to workers.
The company faces $232,103 in proposed penalties for nine serious and one willful violations, and has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
“Two families will enter 2022 without their loved ones and one family will have the long-lasting memory of a frightening and serious illness,” said OSHA Area Director Ramona Morris in Birmingham, Alabama.
“This tragic event should serve as a lesson for all employers to ensure effective safety protocols are established before initiating maintenance activities involving chemical processing equipment and systems.”
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