Adhesives manufacturer Bostik Inc. will pay a reduced fine of $600,000 to settle 50 federal health and safety violations stemming from a 2011 explosion that rocked its plant in Middleton, MA.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration had originally imposed a $917,000 fine in the blast and ensuing blaze, which injured four workers and severely damaged the plant on March 13.
|The blast was traced to two valves that were inadvertently left open, allowing vapors to ignite.|
The Sunday night blast could be heard from miles away, and neighbors were urged to stay in their homes behind closed doors and windows.
Nine of the original citations and $630,000 of the original fine involved rare “willful” violations, OSHA’s highest level of infraction reserved for intentional violations. The other 41 citations were classified as Serious.
The settlement, signed May 14, leaves Bostik with four willful, 22 serious and three other-than-serious violations.
Chemical Safety Cited
OSHA inspectors found a variety of serious lapses in the company’s Process Safety Management (PSM) program. PSM programs are supposed to detail requirements and procedures to proactively address hazards associated with processes and equipment involving large amounts of hazardous chemicals, in order to prevent a catastrophic release.
PSM deficiencies in chemical plants have become a growing concern for OSHA, which announced a National PSM Emphasis Program in November.
In Bostik’s case, the company used acetone in a PSM-covered process known as direct solvation. OSHA said the company’s analysis of hazards related to that process did not address either previous incidents with catastrophic potential or human factors such as operator error, miscommunication and fatigue.
Now, however, OSHA said it has agreed to the reduced fine because “Bostik has taken and continues to take corrective action to address deficiencies” in its PSM program and to “submit proof of abatement to OSHA.”
Bostik has also discontinued use of the direct solvation process at the Middleton plant, OSHA said.
“This resolution speeds corrective action that might otherwise have been delayed through lengthy litigation,” said Michael Felsen, the Labor Department’s regional solicitor in Boston.
“Just as important, the settlement commits Bostik to strengthening its PSM program to prevent the possibility of a similar incident in the future, and to apprise us of its progress in abating the hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Jeffrey A. Erskine.
Bostik did not respond to a request for comment.