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Coating Maker Cited in Chemical Lapses

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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Federal authorities are accusing a longtime New England specialty coating maker of mishandling highly hazardous chemicals at its headquarters.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited StanChem Inc. for 13 serious violations at its manufacturing plant in East Berlin, CT, and issued $55,300 in proposed fines mainly related to OSHA's process safety management standard.

The citations follow a chemical spill at the plant in March 2012. The company is more than 80 years old.

StanChem StanChem

StanChem, based in East Berlin, CT, operates three divisions that produce a wide variety of specialty coatings, intumescents and polymers. OSHA cited the firm for 13 serious chemical-safety violations.

The standard, which guides the management of hazardous chemicals at covered facilities, has been the source of increasing attention and enforcement by OSHA in recent years.

Polymer and Coatings Manufacturing

StanChem develops and manufactures a wide variety of adhesives, coatings and emulsion polymers. The company has three divisions:

  • StanChem Polymers, which makes emulsions for paint, building products and other markets;
  • Albi Manufacturing, which manufactures structural fireproofing products; and
  • Specialty Coatings, which provides a wide range of industrial coatings for the plating and other industries.

StanChem did not respond to a request for comment.

Chemical Spill

An OSHA inspection of StanChem's manufacturing facility in East Berlin found multiple serious deficiencies in the company's process safety management program.

In March 2012, emergency crews were called to the plant after a chemical spill prompted the evacuation of 50 employees, WFSB reported.

StanChem chemical leak
Viewer image via WFSB

Emergency crews responded in March 2012 to a 200-gallon chemical spill at StanChem in East Berlin, CT. The spill occurred after an aggressive chemical reaction ruptured a tote during mixing.

The spill occurred after chemicals were mixed in a 275-gallon tote, causing an "aggressive reaction" that made the container bulge and leak, reports said.

"The fire department made entry with a recon team, found the tote bulging, and approximately 200 gallons of the product was on the floor by the tote with temperatures increasing," Deputy Fire Marshal Matt Odishoo told WFSB at the time.

No injuries were reported.

Serious Violations

The lapses cited involved the use, storage, manufacturing, handling and moving of an unidentified flammable liquid and vinyl acetate, a highly hazardous chemical used in large quantities at the plant, OSHA said. Serious violations are considered life-threatening.

Specifically, the agency said, StanChem:

  • Lacked complete information about process equipment;
  • Failed to determine and document that the equipment met good engineering practices;
  • Lacked written procedures to manage changes to the process;
  • Had incomplete or outdated process hazard analyses;
  • Did not resolve process hazard analysis recommendations in a timely manner;
  • Failed to promptly address and resolve findings from a 2012 incident report;
  • Did not conduct a compliance audit of the process every three years; and
  • Did not document correction of deficiencies cited in an earlier compliance audit.
Petroleum Refinery Plant

StanChem's Albi Manufacturing division makes fireproofing products, including Albi Clad 800 for structural steel in refinery plants and other applications.

"The requirements of OSHA's process safety management standards are stringent and comprehensive because failure to effectively implement a process safety management program can lead to a catastrophic incident," said Warren Simpson, OSHA's area director in Hartford.

"The safety and well-being of the plant's employees are dependent on the employer effectively addressing all conditions, equipment and procedures involved in the polymer manufacturing process."

The company has 15 business days to contest the citations.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Adhesive; Coating chemistry; Coatings manufacturers; Construction chemicals; Fire-resistive coatings; Health and safety; Intumescent; OSHA; Specialty Coatings

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