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Plant Cited in Fire Fought by Worker

Thursday, February 2, 2012

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Federal safety authorities have cited a New York metal finishing plant where an employee was burned while trying to put out a fire in September.

Although the worker was injured, the incident could have been much worse, said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which issued a dozen violations and fined the company $51,680 this week.

 California Department of Toxic Substances Control

 California Department of Toxic Substances Control

California’s Metal Finishing Model Shop Program is one of many initiatives that focus on worker health and safety.

The fire broke out Sept. 20 at Anthony River Inc. in Syracuse, NY, when vapors ignited in an unventilated storage room that held more than 800 gallons of flammable liquid, including “numerous” open containers, OSHA said.

Spray Booth Hazards

Upon inspection, the agency also found that:

• The plant’s paint spray booths lacked a working sprinkler system and had accumulations of combustible residue;

• The storage room did not meet the National Fire Protection Association's required fire-resistance rating;

• Fire extinguishers were blocked, and employees were insufficiently trained to use them;

• A lighter was allowed to be ignited in the storage room; and

• Flammable liquids were dispensed without the nozzle and container being electrically bonded.

“While it is fortunate that no life was lost here, this is a graphic example of the harm that workers and businesses can suffer when basic, common-sense and legally required safeguards are neglected,” said Christopher Adams, OSHA’s area director in Syracuse.

Company Response

Shop manager Rick Young said Thursday (Feb. 2) that the employee had returned to work after several days and was fully recovered.

Meanwhile, he said, the plant has been “working with OSHA very closely” to correct the hazards cited.

“We’re working with an OSHA consultant to get things back up to par,” said Young. “A lot of fines we received [were for conditions that] we didn’t even know were violations.” He cited a microwave oven plugged into an extension cord as an example.

Young said the company was “in negotiations right now” to get the fines reduced.

Serious, Repeat Violations

OSHA cited the company for nine serious and three repeat violations.

In addition to some of the conditions cited above, the serious violations, which carry a total of $33,000 in fines, also allege unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals as well as uninspected and unrated overhead hoists and lifting devices. Serious violations reflect “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The repeat violations relate to the paint spray booth hazards. OSHA cited the company in 2010 and 2011 for lack of an operating sprinkler system in the spray booths, the combustible residue build-up, and for using an extension cord instead of fixed wiring in one area.

A repeat violation exists when an employer has been cited for the same or a similar violation within five years.

‘Hazards Can Be Eliminated’

“Hazards can be eliminated by an effective illness and injury prevention program, in which management and employees work together to identify and prevent hazardous conditions,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA's New York regional administrator.

The statement was a reminder that OSHA will be pushing this year for a rule that would require employers to develop injury and illness prevention programs.


Tagged categories: Citations; Health and safety; Metal coatings; OSHA; Spray booths

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