| Connect Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook
About | Subscribe | Advertise


Download our free ebook on Abrasive Blast Cleaning

Paint and Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

Fines Set in Death from Paint Chemicals

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More items for Health & Safety

Comment | More

A fatal accumulation of vapors from pools of spilled coating chemicals has led to 12 federal safety citations and $64,600 in fines against a Wisconsin manufacturer.

Ramon Torres, 55, of Horicon, WI, died quickly Nov. 29 from a toxic buildup of vapors from toluene and other chemicals in a closed room at Vivid Image Inc., in Theresa, WI. Thomas Persha, 65, also of Horicon, was found unconscious with Torres but recovered later at an area hospital.

 OSHA said the workers were working in high exposures of toluene in an unventilated room without respiratory protection.


OSHA said the workers were working in high exposures of toluene in an unventilated room without respiratory protection.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 12 citations in the case, including two for violations considered “willful”—the highest level of infraction.

Vivid Image said in an automated phone message Thursday (May 17) that it had “discontinued operations” on Nov. 28—one day before the accident. If the company does not address the violations within 15 business days of receipt, OSHA considers the violations accepted.

Worker Saved

Persha’s wife had gone to the facility to check on her husband when she had been unable to reach him. When she arrived, she saw both men, through a window, face down in the chemicals and called 911, authorities said.

A hazmat team found three five-gallon containers of paint and coating chemicals tipped over and empty.

The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office later identified the chemicals as toluene, screen coating paint, and a resin used in coatings for metal. Vivid specializes in coatings for projection systems.

Persha was lucky to survive, authorities said.

“With great degree of certainty, this happened very immediately, very quick,” Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls told the Fond du Lac Reporter.

Willful Violations

According to OSHA, willful violations are those “committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.”

In this case, the willful violations were for allowing workers to work with toluene in an unventilated area without wearing respiratory protection and for exposing the workers to toluene beyond the peak level of 500 parts per million.

Toluene is a clear, colorless solvent commonly used in paints, thinners and glues. OSHA guidelines limit peak toluene exposure to 10 minutes per single time period for any eight-hour shift, with a time weighted average exposure of 200 parts per million.

Serious Violations

The company also was cited for 10 serious safety and health violations, including failure to:

• Evaluate toluene air concentrations;

• Shut off the ventilation system and block the exhaust duct while applying screen coating material containing toluene;

• Ban ignition sources from the coating room where flammable material was mixed and applied;

• Develop and implement a written hazard communication program;

• Train workers on the hazards of coating material;

• Properly store flammable liquids;

• Provide guarding on a table saw;

• Prevent exposed electrical wires, by using extension cords instead of permanent wiring; and

• Provide fork truck training.

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

Severe Violator

The willful violations put Vivid in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections of “recalcitrant employers” to ensure compliance with the law.

“Vivid Image has a responsibility to monitor workers’ exposure to known chemicals in its facility, ensure usage of protective equipment and train workers in workplace hazards,” said Kim Stille, OSHA's area director in Madison, WI.

Prior Accident

Dodge County Emergency Management Director Joe Meagher told the Fond du Lac newspaper that rescue workers had been called to Vivid before, under similar circumstances.

“They were called out there a couple of years ago when a UPS driver found workers unresponsive,” Meagher said.

No investigation was ordered, and the fate of those workers could not be determined Thursday, but they apparently survived. Only businesses with 10 or more employees are required to document work-related injuries and illnesses. Vivid Image has only three employees.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Citations; OSHA

Comment from Car F., (5/18/2012, 10:54 AM)

This publication is starting to read like the Obituary, evidently the criminals are running amock killing workers and paying little fines for their crimes. A con man who defrauded a bank [didn’t kill anyone] gets two years in jail. A company kills two employees and gets a small, token fine… tells you who is in control.

Comment from Anna Jolly, (5/21/2012, 11:35 AM)

In my opinion it is good that a trade journal includes the safety and health issues of that trade. Too many of these publications never mention safety, much less point out the risks of the business. This publication seems to cover all components of the painting industry, so that the managers of the business are aware of the effects of safety or lack of safety on their business. As a safety professional, it also allow me to understand safety in the paining business in context. I applaud Paint Square.

Comment from Car F., (5/22/2012, 10:40 AM)

I totally agree Ms. Jolly

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

RPB Respiratory

Take advantage of RPB Safety’s coolest promotion yet! Throughout the entire month of May you will receive a free Cool Tube with every...


The Next Generation
of Blasting

• Lightest
• Coolest
• Most Comfortable
• Most Dependable

Clemco Industries Corp.
Powerful Protection in a Small Package

Mounts inside blast helmet, alerts operator to dangerous breathing-air condition by audible, visual, and vibratory alarms. Easily calibrated, battery operated.

Manus Abrasive Systems, Inc./Mod-U-Blast Mfg.
Manus Abrasive
& Mod-U-Blast Mfg

stock several handy tools to accomplish a wide range of internal pipe blasting/cleaning.
Dealer inquiries welcome.

US Minerals
US Minerals -
Black Magnum

With nationwide production and distribution capabilities, U.S. Minerals supplies a complete range of coal slag and other abrasives to meet all of your blasting needs.

NLB Corporation
VacLance cleans up as you do surface preparation

Add vacuum recovery to any NLB rotating water jet lance with a VacLance attachment and vacuum source. Model DM32283 works vertically, horizontally and in corners.

Midsun Specialty Products
Stopaq 30+ Year Coatings

Use Stopaq corrosion prevention coatings on pipelines, field joints, tank chimes, structural steel and more. Learn more at

Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings

With 4,000 distribution points and 3,700+ years of experience, Sherwin-Williams delivers the products, support and expertise you need, right where you need it.

Wasser High-Tech Coatings Inc.
Wasser Coatings Protect

Wasser Coatings offer a complete range of Moisture Cure Urethane (NEPCOAT approved) systems in addition to Polyurea membranes and linings(NSF).

Technology Publishing

The Technology Publishing Network

The Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings (JPCL) PaintSquare
Durability + Design Paint BidTracker

EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About   |   Privacy policy   |   Terms & conditions   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us

© Copyright 2000-2015, Technology Publishing / PaintSquare, All rights reserved
2100 Wharton Street, Suite 310, Pittsburgh PA 15203-1951; Tel 1-412-431-8300; Fax 1-412-431-5428; E-mail