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Paint Chemical Maker Fined in Blast

Friday, December 7, 2012

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An explosion at a Georgia plant that makes paint and coating chemicals has drawn 20 federal citations and $77,000 in fines for a “wide range of safety hazards.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s case against MFG Chemical Inc., of Dalton, includes confined space, hazardous materials and training violations.

The case involves a blast May 21 that blew a hole in MFG Chemical’s roof and sent nearly 50 employees of other companies in the area to the hospital for decontamination.

The victims included employees of International Coatings, which makes traffic paints and textile inks, across the street from the plant, news reports said.

The company was also cited for 15 violations in 2005 and 20 violations in 2004, according to OSHA records.

Runaway Reaction

OSHA found that the explosion had been caused by a “runaway reaction from an overheated reactor.”

MFG Chemical blast - 5.21.12 -

The blast from an overheated reactor at MFG Chemical blew a hole through the roof of the plant. Nearly 50 people working in neighboring buildings were treated for decontamination.

“During the production of coagulant 129, a compound used in water treatment, an increase in temperature caused the reactor to overpressurize, rupturing the dome cover and blowing a hole in the roof of the facility.”

Six employees inside the plant were uninjured, but dozens of workers in neighboring buildings required treatment for decontamination, police said.

"This inspection has identified a wide range of safety hazards that need to be addressed in order to protect workers," said Andre Richards, director of OSHA's Atlanta-West Area Office.

OSHA conducted its inspection under the agency's year-old National Emphasis Program on Process Safety Management for covered chemical facilities, which aims to reduce the risk of catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals.

Serious Violations

All but one of the citations was serious, meaning that that carried a substantial probability of death or serious injury “from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.”

The serious violations include exposing workers to fire and explosion hazards while they performed manufacturing duties, as well as failing to:

  • Failing to ensure that initial process hazard analyses were conducted;
  • Develop operational procedures that are safe, accurate and concise and that include operating parameters such as emergency shutdown;
  • Provide training and implement safe work practices for contracted workers performing maintenance in a PSM-covered area;
  • Develop and implement a written mechanical integrity program for workers required to maintain and repair process equipment;
  • Develop emergency response procedures that include handling small chemical releases;
  • Identify permit-required confined spaces such as reactors, receivers and mixers;
  • Ensure confined-space permits were issued and documented before allowing workers to enter the spaces;
  • Ensure that eyewash/shower facilities were available and accessible for workers exposed to chemical burns;
  • Mount and identify the placement of portable fire extinguishers; and
  • Establish a preferred way of communicating an emergency evacuation.
MFG Chemical
MFG Chemical

MFG Chemical manufactures a range of specialty chemicals. In a statement, the company said the May 21 rupture of a chemical reactor caused “no injuries and no fire.”

In addition, an other-than-serious citation, carrying a $700 fine, was issued for failing to ensure that a material safety data worksheet contained the required information.

OSHA Record

In 2005, the company paid a $12,200 fine to OSHA (reduced from $20,400) for 10 serious and five other-than-serious violations related to combustible liquids and exposure to hazardous chemicals, according to OSHA's records.

Some of those violations involved the plant's reactor area, and OSHA records warn of the possibility of "an over pressure situation" that could "cause the release of volatile chemicals."

In 2004, the company paid $11,250 in fines (reduced from $21,250) for 16 serious and four other-than-serious violations after one serious violation was reduced. The citations reflected a variety of hazards.

Company Responds

MFG Chemical manufactures a range of specialty chemicals for the paint and coatings, water treatment, oil field, polymer and lubricant additives, and other markets.

In a statement, the company said the “May 21 incident” involved “no injuries and no fire.”

“MFG Chemical, Inc. is, and has always been, a company that is vitally concerned with the safety of its employees,” the statement said. “We take issues of plant safety very seriously. Consistent with the principles set forth in our industry’s environment, health, safety and security program, MFG Chemical makes safety considerations a priority in our planning and operations for all new and existing products and processes.”

MFG said the citations included “several items that need to be clarified and several that are not accurately portrayed.” The company said it would “discuss these differences with OSHA in the next few days.”


Tagged categories: Accidents; Certifications and standards; Confined space; Enforcement; Health and safety; Process Safety Management

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