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Pipe Maker Faces 6th OSHA Case

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

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Just two months after getting slapped with a $1+ million fine, a Houston-based pipe maker is again in trouble with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Piping Technology and Products Inc. (PTP) faces one willful and 11 serious violations and $147,000 in fines related to excessive noise levels, paint shop hazards, methylene chloride exposures and other issues at its facility.

 PTP employees gathered earlier this year for a “Happy New Year” photo

 Photos: Piping Technology & Products

The company employs several hundred employees, who gathered earlier this year for a “Happy New Year” photo.

On Dec. 28, OSHA cited the company for 13 willful and 17 serious violations related to amputation risks and other hazards. Fines in that case totaled $1,013,000.

Citations Contested

The company is contesting the December citations and plans to dispute the new ones as well, company vice president R.K. Agrawal said in a statement.

“We (Piping Technology & Products) operate a safe workplace for its employees,” Agrawal said. “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.”

“While we have just received them and are still studying them, we disagree with the conclusions of the citations and proposed fines.  We look forward to working with OSHA to resolve our differences.”

Agrawal said the company was “very proud of our history of creating over 600 manufacturing jobs in Houston while competing against aggressive, low-cost manufacturers from China and Taiwan.”

He added: “In our 30-plus-year history, Piping Technology has succeeded by taking a long-term view, and safety is and has always been one of our core values.  We’ve never held back when it’s come to investing time or money to maintain the safety of our employees.”

New Citations

The December citations placed the company in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates follow-up inspections for what OSHA calls “recalcitrant” employers.

Willful violations are OSHA’s highest level of infraction and relatively rare, reflecting “intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for” the law or “plain indifference to worker safety and health.”

 PTP's manufacturing and engineering facility near the Port of Houston.
The citations relate to working conditions at the company’s 450,000-square-foot manufacturing and engineering facility near the Port of Houston.

The newest citations stem from follow-up inspections and allege a variety of hazards.

The willful violation, carrying a $70,000 penalty, relates to excessive, sustained noise in the plant. The serious violations allege that:

• Paint shop, foam shop and other workers were using chemicals without being evaluated for the need for respiratory protection;

• Paint shop employees did not receive annual training in respiratory protection;

• Employees handling corrosive chemicals lacked hand protection and an emergency eye wash;

• Employees working with an adhesive made with methylene chloride, a toxic chemical linked to a wave of recent deaths, lacked protective clothing and equipment, adequate gloves and eye washes;

• Employees working with methylene chloride lacked exposure risk assessments;

• Employees working with corrosive chemicals lacked training, information and assessments for personal protective equipment; and

• Water-reactive chemicals were stored in the same area as flammable and combustible liquids.

Serious violations reflect “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Earlier Citations

OSHA also cited Piping Technology in 1986, 1994, 2004 and 2005 regarding the need to guard the band saws used in production processes. In 2004 and 2005, OSHA fined the company $82,500 and $33,000, respectively, for a variety of hazards that included lockout/tagout violations.

 “This is the not the first time Piping Technology and Products has jeopardized the safety of its workers,” said John Hermanson, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas. “Employers have a responsibility to safeguard workers from hazards.”

   

Tagged categories: Health and safety; Methylene chloride; OSHA; Pipeline; Pipelines; Violations

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