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FL Tank Maker Fined $106K for Hazards

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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Painters, blasters and other temporary and full-time workers at a longtime manufacturer of tanks and pressure vessels are the focus of concern in 23 federal health and safety citations alleging toxic chemical exposures.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $106,100 in fines against Dixie Tank Co., of Jacksonville, FL, saying that the workers have been exposed to excessive levels of hexavalent chromium. The citations follow an October 2013 inspection as part of the agency's national emphasis program on amputations.

Chrome 6 exposures
Photos: NIOSH

Hexavalent chromium exposure is common in many industrial occupations. OSHA standards cover protective requirements and exposure limits for these workers.

OSHA has inspected Dixie Tank on six previous occasions, last issuing citations in February 2009 for noise, respirators and confined-space violations.

Dixie Tank declined Tuesday (May 20) to comment.

Chemical Exposure

Founded in 1943, Dixie Tank operates a six-acre site with a 78,000-square-foot plant that manufactures carbon and stainless-steel tanks, pressure vessels, water heaters, filters, and custom fabrications for the water, water treatment, hot water, and industrial markets.

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen that also targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. Chromium metal is added to alloy steel to increase hardenability and corrosion resistance.

Welder

Welding and other "hot work" on stainless and other steels is a major source of worker exposure to hexavalent chromium.

"Hot work," such as welding on stainless steel and other alloy steels containing chromium metal, is a major source of worker exposure to hexavalent chromium.

'Brown Filth' and Hazardous Coatings

OSHA is alleging 19 serious violations against the company, including:

  • Exposing workers to hexavalent chromium above the limit set by OSHA;
  • Failing to conduct initial monitoring of hexavalent chromium to determine the exposure average;
  • Failing to provide medical surveillance for employees exposed to hexavalent chromium for more than 30 days;
  • Failing to provide appropriate respirators for blasters and other workers in and around tanks;
  • Failure to fit respirators by painters, blasters and other workers;
  • Failure to monitor carbon-monoxide exposure in the blasting area;
  • "Brown filth" throughout bathrooms, the break rooms, walls, floors and ceiling tiles from lack of maintenance;
  • Allowing employees to eat, drink, smoke and chew gum in the paint shop and other areas where hazardous coatings were in use;
  • Lack of training and information for workers handling paint thinners and solvent-based cleaners;
  • Failure to notify prospective employees about the hazardous coatings and other materials with which they would be working;
  • Failure to equip all hoist load hooks with a safety latch to avoid struck-by hazards; and
  • Failure to protect nearby employees from ultraviolet welding arcs.
Respirator

Proper fit and training with respirators is required for employees exposed to toxic chemicals. Dixie Tank Co. is accused of multiple respiratory protection lapses.

Serious violations reflect life-threatening hazards that the employer knew, or should have known, about.

Other-than-serious citations alleged noise and record-keeping violations, among others.

Protecting Temporary Workers

The affected workers in the current case include three temporary workers provided by a multinational staffing agency. Dixie Tank is accused of inadequate supervision of those workers. The staffing agency was not cited.

In April 2013, OSHA announced an initiative to improve workplace safety and health for temporary workers.

   

Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Confined space; Health and safety; Hexavalent chromium; OSHA; Painters; Respirators; Solvent and chemical cleaning; Solventborne coatings; Solvents; Tanks and vessels

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