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OSHA in Standoff with Pipe Lining Maker

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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Federal health and safety authorities have gone to court to obtain a warrant to carry out their inspection of a Pennsylvania-based pipe lining maker that stores a highly flammable resin.

Following up on a complaint about storage of the highly hazardous chemical, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration is seeking a warrant to inspect and investigate Insituform Technologies LLC, based in Olyphant, PA.

Insituform, meanwhile, is seeking a restraining order to keep OSHA out.

Insituform Technologies
Insituform Technologies

Insituform says that the resin used in its CIPP process is chilled as an "operational convenience," not a necessity, exempting the company from OSHA's Process Safety Management standard and National Emphasis Program.

Insituform is a global provider of cured-in-place pipe (CIPP), custom coatings and linings, and other technologies and services for the rehabilitation of pipeline.

Inspectors Rejected

In documents filed Nov. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith says that a Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) from OSHA's area office filed a referral for a full inspection of Insituform based on observations "during an inspection based on an employee complaint."

After "direct observation and information obtained from employees and management," the inspector determined that the facility had more than 10,000 pounds of 102 TA Resin, a highly hazardous chemical, on site, the documents say.

Facilities that use highly hazardous chemicals are governed by so-called Process Safety Management (PSM) standards. In addition, such facilities have been the focus of stepped-up scrutiny since November 2011, under a PSM-Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program.

The National Emphasis Program allows programmed and unprogrammed inspections in all region. Unprogrammed inspections are allowed in cases of a formal complaint or referral related to a PSM-covered process.

According to court documents, OSHA area director Mark Stelmack sent a letter June 19 to Insituform, notitfying the company of an inspection to be conducted on June 27. The letter also requested documents that companies are required to maintain under the PSM standard.

PSM standard

OSHA's PSM-Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program allows unprogrammed inspections following complaints or referrals.

On June 25, Insituform responded to Stelmack with a letter detailing why the company felt it was not covered under PSM standards. Stelmack agreed to postpone the June 27 inspection, but on Oct. 24, two OSHA inspectors arrived at the facility for a surprise PSM inspection.

The company refused to admit the inspectors and demanded a warrant, triggering a series of federal-court actions.

Determining Standards

In its complaint, Insituform says that it applies 102 TA Resin to the interior of its "Insitutube" before the Insitutube is placed inside the pipe system that needs repair. Once inside the pipe, the Insitutube is heated to initiate the curing process, causing the Insitutube to expand, mold to the size of the existing pipe, and harden into a virtual PVC pipe.

"The resin is the trigger for the heating and curing process," the complaint says.

Insituform argues that the resin is stored in atmospheric tanks that use no cooling or refrigeration, although "at times, the resin is chilled in the summer and heated in the winter to maintain the ideal viscosity" for application.

Insituform coatings
Insituform Technologies

Insituform is a global provider of custom coatings and linings, CIPP technology, and related pipeline rehabilitation services and products.

However, the chilling is "absolutely not needed to keep the resin below its boiling point of 293ºF," the company contends.

Insituform cites a PSM standard exemption for "flammable liquids with a flashpoint below 100ºF (37.8ºC) stored in atmospheric tanks or transferred which are kept below their normal boiling point without benefit of chilling or refrigeration."

Thus, the company argues, the PSM standard does not apply to that facility.

The government's application for a warrant is now before Senior U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo.


Tagged categories: Cured-in-place pipe (CIPP); Enforcement; Health & Safety; Insituform; Lawsuits; Linings; OSHA; Pipeline; Protective Coatings

Comment from Tony Rangus, (12/3/2013, 9:42 AM)

I cannot believe what crybabies Insituform Technologies LLC, turns out to be. Who cares if they feel there is an exception to the PSM rules, let OSHA in and see if there really is a safety issue; whether it be personnel safety, fire safety or explosion safety. I would think if Insituform Technologies LLC truly feels there is no safety issue, then OSHA finds nothing & Insituform Technologies LLC goes on their merry way. But if Insituform Technologies LLC continues to put up roadblocks & they kill, maim or injure an employee or some poor civilian out in public because of a safety issue with the 102 TA resin, may they burn in you no where and have the pants sued off them!!

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