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Employer Cited in Fatal Confined-Space Fire

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 32 citations against Thermal Polymer Systems LC of Angleton, TX, in connection with an explosion Jan. 28 that killed one worker and injured two others.

The explosion occurred in a permit-required confined space that had no ventilation at the time, OSHA said. A flash fire ignited as two workers were applying primer inside a tanker trailer.

"This company exposed its workers to the hazards of confined-space entry," said Mark Briggs, OSHA's area director for the Houston South Area Office.

"In this case, the ventilation system was not on to remove the flammable and toxic vapors of the primer being used by the employees, and the internal atmosphere of the tank was not being monitored with a combustible gas meter to alert the employees that the atmosphere was becoming toxic and inflammable."

One worker, Mark Blevins, 56, died from his injuries two days after the fire; the other worker remains hospitalized with burns to over 90 percent of his body. A third worker, the attendant monitoring the confined space in the event of an emergency, was blown off the tank when the vapors ignited.

OSHA issued citations alleging four willful and 28 serious violations. The willful violations were for alledgedly failing to:

• Eliminate and control hazardous atmospheres, such as flammable gas, through ventilation;

• Complete confined-space entry permits;

• Use intrinsically safe lights in hazardous locations; and

• Annually fit-test employees for respirator use.

Serious violations alledgedly included failing to mark exits; ensure flammables storage areas had self-closing doors; conduct workplace hazard assessments; monitor, evaluate and annually review and retain records for the confined spaces; implement a hearing conservation program; and secure compressed cylinders, OSHA said.

A willful violation is one that reflects intentional disregard for safety and health. A serious violation is one that could cause death or serious physical harm to employees when the employer knew or should have known of the hazard. Penalties for the violations total $161,600.

The company did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the citations.

Thermal Polymer Systems makes Thermaplast Fluoropolymers and Thermaplast Plastic Coatings. The company also offers shop applications; full field service; training and special project applications; research & development projects; and applicators specially trained for confined space, industrial and commercial field applications.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards may call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-6742 to report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Fatalities; Fire; Fluoropolymer; Health and safety; OSHA; OSHA; Polymers

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