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Injury at Pipe Firm Spurs 8th OSHA Case

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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Another accident at a Houston pipe manufacturer has followed two amputations, scores of citations, and well over $1 million in federal fines there.

For the eighth time since 2004, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued multiple citations against Piping Technology & Products Inc. (PT&P) of Houston—this time, once again, following the injury of an employee.

Photos: Piping Technology & Products Inc.

PT&P offers a variety of fabricating and inspection services for the oil and gas industry.

The new case alleges four repeat and three serious violations, with fines totaling $199,800. This is the fourth OSHA inspection and third set of citations issued against the company this year. PT&P is contesting all of the cases.

An unspecified number of workers were struck June 17 by flying chips from inadequately guarded 140-ton and 120-ton punch presses, according to the citation documents. After the accident, OSHA inspectors also found that band saw equipment lacked guarding—a hazard for which the company has been cited previously.

Earlier this year, two workers lost fingers in unguarded presses at PT&P—accidents that prompted a willful OSHA violation and $70,000 fine on June 24.

New Citations

The new repeat citations include alleged failure to:

  • Guard punch presses and band saws;
  • Provide lockout/tagout training regarding energized sources; and
  • Conduct an annual review of lockout/tagout procedures.

Those citations were first issued in 2011.

The new serious violations allege:

  • Failure to secure a fuel gas cyclinder;
  • Allowing the use of damaged slings for lifting and moreing equipment; and
  • Failure to provide strain relief for electrical wiring.

Serious violations reflect life-threatening hazards.

"Piping Technology and Products has again failed to protect its workers from hazards, and again a worker has been injured on the job," said Mark Briggs, OSHA's area director. "OSHA will not tolerate such disregard for workers' safety."

Company: Committed to Safety

PT&P is a leading global supplier to the oil and gas industry. It bills itself as a "one-stop shop" for pipe and component fabrication, pipe fitting, design, technical services, and inspection services. The company also owns U.S. Bellows, Sweco Fab, Pipe Shields, and Fronek Anchor/Darling.

PT&P says that its equipment has OSHA-compliant safety guards. The company has been cited repeatedly for machinery guarding lapses, and three workers have been injured this year.

PT&P, which employs 700 people at the 35-acre site, said in a statement Monday (Dec. 16) that it was still reviewing the citations but planned to contest them.

The statement, by Safety Manager Woodie Osteen, said PT&P had "worked closely" with OSHA in the recent past, including meeting monthly with Briggs. "We’ve never held back when it’s come to investing time or money to maintain the safety of our employees."

Founded in 1978, PT&P says on its website that it is "committed to maintaining a safe environment for our workers" and provides mandatory "continuous OSHA Compliant safety education."

The company also says it has increased its safety staff to five people from two since 2006.

In statements on two earlier cases, PT&P vice president R.K. Agrawal disputed the OSHA citations and said: "We (Piping Technology & Products) operate a safe workplace for its (sic) employees.

R.K. Agrawal Woodie Osteen

"We operate a safe workplace," says PT&P vice president R.K. Agrawal (left). Safety Manager Woodie Osteen says the company will contest the new case.

"We take the safety and health of each and every member of our team very seriously and we think the facts and our record reflect that."

$1M+ in Fines

The biggest of the cases against PT&P involves 13 willful and 17 serious violations issued Dec. 28, 2011, alleging a variety of machine guarding, maintenance and inspection lapses. The case, which landed PT&P in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, included fines totaling $1,013,000.

That inspection was prompted by a complaint from an employee.

OSHA said Dec. 12 that the 2011 cases have been settled, but the agency's records still show them as open. The Dec. 28 case has been tentatively reduced to 18 serious violations, 11 repeat violations, and $560,000 in total fines, according to OSHA records.

Violations and fines in three cases in 2004 and 2005 were all reduced before they were closed, leaving a total of 23 violations and just over $50,000 in fines. Fines in one case were reduced from $33,000 to $9,750.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Health and safety; Oil and Gas; OSHA; Pipeline

Comment from Car F., (12/17/2013, 10:58 AM)

at what point incarceration becomes mandatory for causing death and injury to a person?...evidently monetary penalties are not working...

Comment from M. Halliwell, (12/18/2013, 10:31 AM)

A few thoughts, Car... First, with a record like that, any civil suit will be expensive and hard to fight (out of court settlement predicted). Second, when they kill an employee, I agree....this sort of on-going disregard for safety makes me think negligent homicide charges against corporate officers and personnel should be the case. Finally, when will OSHA stop giving out 60-90% reductions in fines to repeat and willful violators?

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