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Painter Closes after OSHA Citations

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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A Florida aluminum coating and blasting operation has closed its doors in the face of 37 new federal safety and health citations and a fine of nearly $140,000.

Dave Fritz, owner of Fritz Aluminum Services, of Eustis, TN, said Wednesday (March 21) that he closed his six-year-old business about 10 days ago, more than a week after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued its citations.



The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has been urging OSHA for years to issue a combustible dust standard for general industry. Combustible dust has been cited in multiple disastrous explosions, including the 2008 blast that killed 14 workers at the Imperial Sugar Refinery in Port Wentworth, GA.

“I built everything from the ground up,” said Fritz, who still owns Fritz Fence, which he has run for more than 30 years.

Walking Away from OSHA?

OSHA inspected Fritz Aluminum for the first time in September after a complaint. Inspectors found so many hazards on that one inspection—from cracked fluorescent lighting amid six-inch accumulations of combustible dust, to lack of protection for blasters—that OSHA placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

The program targets so-called “recalcitrant” employers and High Emphasis Hazards, including combustible dust.

Fritz said Wednesday that he had not heard directly from OSHA since the inspection and that he had not received the citations, which were issued Feb. 28. He said he had read about the violations and fines online.

OSHA spokesman Mike Wald, however, said that Fritz had received the citations and that he could not walk away from them without a response.

Wald noted that employers who receive OSHA citations have 15 business days to respond to them. Lack of a response by that deadline is considered acceptance of the violations and fines as issued, Wald said.

Because Fritz has not appealed the case, Wald said, “the citations have now become the final order,” Wald . The company is responsible for the fines, in the amounts proposed, and abating the violations.”

6 Inches of Combustible Dust

The safety citations include two willful violations for extreme concentrations of powder coating dust. According to the citations, inspectors found accumulations that were more than 10 times the minimum explosive concentration (MEC) as indicated on the Material Safety Data Sheets.

 DuPont Sustainable Solutions

 DuPont Sustainable Solutions

OSHA said combustible dust at Fritz Aluminum was piled up to six inches deep on rafters, in paint booths and even above dropped ceilings. This photo is taken from a DuPont training video on combustible dust.

Powder coating dust up to six inches deep also covered the paint booths, rafters, floors, outside the spray booths, and above and on the dropped ceiling, with explosion severity rated at up to 1.12, OSHA documents show. Any rating of 0.5 or higher is considered an “appreciable explosion hazard.”

The health violations include a willful violation for continued use of a severely damaged respirator by an employee who was performing abrasive blasting.

The willful violations also allege failure to:

• Provide workers with an abrasive blasting suit, gloves or apron during blasting operations;

• Replace missing and powder-clogged filters in the powder coating booth; and

• Implement a housekeeping program and provide proper ventilation to keep combustible dust accumulations at a minimal level.

A willful violation is one committed with “intentional knowing or voluntary disregard” for the law’s requirements, or with “plain indifference” to worker safety and health. Each of the willful violations carries a $14,000 fine.

“The level of disregard for workers’ safety demonstrated by this employer is irresponsible,” said Les Grove, OSHA’s area director in Tampa. “Although the employer knows the fire and explosion hazards associated with the accumulation of combustible dust, a choice was made to do nothing about it.”

“It should not take a fire or explosion to implement necessary safety measures to protect employees.”

Serious Violations

OSHA also issued 28 citations for a wide variety of serious violations that include:

• Cracked, non-explosion-proof lighting covered in combustible residue in spray booths;

• A respirator hood left outside under broken bags of sand;

• Lack of sprinklers in spray booths and lack of a carbon monoxide alarm;

• Ungrounded metal parts and components in the hand-spraying area;

• Painters spraying without ventilation;

• Workers cleaning combustible dust from booths with compressed air;

• Employees smoking and dropping cigarette butts in the spray booth;

• Lack of machine guarding;

• Lack of appropriate air filters in the abrasive blasting area;

• Exposed wiring in the spray booths;

• Lack of hand and eye protection for employees pouring and spraying acids and other chemicals;

• Blasting employees exposed to nearly 25 times the permissible exposure limit for silica;

• Lack of available MSDS;

• Lack of training for workers exposed to silica dust, powder coating dust and acids; and

• Lack of a written hazard communication program.

A serious violation reflects a substantial probability of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Other-than-Serious Violations

Six other-than-serious violations allege failure to:

• Maintain sanitary conditions in the powder booth, welding area and break room bathrooms;

• Have forklift operators complete refresher training in the last three years;

• Certify the training of forklift drivers;

• Remove defective or unsafe powered industrial trucks from service;

• Appropriately store oxygen and acetylene compressed gas cylinders; and

• Properly label circuit breaker panels.

Employer Responds

Fritz said he knew about the dust problem. “Dust gets on top of the ceiling,” he said. He also said his lights “didn’t suit OSHA.”

He said he had replaced PVC piping used to transport 130 psi compressed air (a rupture hazard, according to OSHA) with steel, as required.

He said that the blasting equipment he bought six years ago did not come with a filter and he did not know he needed one.

He also said he does not read and does not like to read.


Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Health and safety; OSHA; Powder coatings; Regulations; Respirators; Silica; Spray booths; Violations

Comment from Mike McCloud, (3/22/2012, 7:09 AM)

Sounds like piling on to me...

Comment from James Johnson, (3/22/2012, 11:52 AM)

If not responses to in 15 days the findings anf fine are finalized. Sounds like run away power to me..

Comment from Charles Williams, (3/22/2012, 2:08 PM)

I feel for this guy, I hate seeing our industry close doors on any shop.

Comment from Gary Burke, (3/22/2012, 3:37 PM)

there was a place with similar conditions as this in Toledo, Ohio doing a liquid finishing operation with e-stat guns. There was about 3-4 Inches of paint build-up on the floor areas near spray booth. It burned to the ground not long after I went in to sell them some new pump systems. I wish OSHA would have been in there!

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/23/2012, 3:55 AM)

I hope we can convince OSHA to put this inspector in the field more often,I disagree with (piling on & run away power) this guys site was pathetic, Ignorance is no excuse,(didnt know he needed filters) Feel sorry for the workers that this company exposed to God only knows what,cause this company dang sure didnt care, "PVC high preasure air pipe" for real and you guys fell sorry, I dont glad we got this company shut down and sent home,for all the young guys that would have been put at risk by this company and not trained correctly.. This is a good example for our industry to become PRO-ACTIVE and create a Data Base the documents and tracks companies and workers who practice this way and we will be rid of looser companies like this!!!!!!!

Comment from Jeff Laikind, (3/23/2012, 10:22 AM)

15 Business days. So, if I read this correct, the citations were made on February 28, which gave the company until March 20 to respond. Instead, it shut down around March 11. That sounds kind of guilty to me.

Comment from Lynda Kortlang, (3/26/2012, 1:42 PM)

The items that were found by OSHA Inspectors at this site are certainly good reason to shut down an operation like this one. I've seen many workers over the years have to work around hazards like this site and it's not fair. If the owner does not like to read then he should get a job flipping burgers and stay out of a business that requires you to protect your workers from hazards. The first thing I learned was that to be a competent person you must first be able to recognize the hazards. How can a business owner not recognize hazards. This guy could have blown a hole right through his community and killed alot of people. The right thing to do if you don't know, is to hire someone who does know and pay that person well.........

Comment from Anna Jolly, (3/26/2012, 2:10 PM)

There is no reason to feel sorry for this guy. He chose to be agressively ignorant. When the place blew up and killed his workers, would you feel sorry for him then because he lost his business or the workers who were killed. The 15 day issue has been the same since 1970 or there abouts. I think that might be adequate time for this guy to figure it out. Not to mention that the standard citation paperwork always spells this out. Oh, but this poor guy didn't like to read. That is so sad! He could have gotten his wife or secretary to read it for him.

Comment from Rob Jorden, (3/27/2012, 11:44 AM)

This type of operator is exactly why we need OSHA the excuse that he did not read or was unaware he needed something is just plain ignorant. From the story not only could he have seriously injured one of his emplopyees it looks like his operation could also have caused a serious incident in the local community. Hats of to the compliance officer who did his job.

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