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Chemical Maker Fined for Deadly Release

Thursday, January 8, 2015

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Tipped by a news report of an accident, federal regulators have levied $87,780 in new penalties against a Georgia coatings chemical plant with a decade-long list of health and safety violations.

MFG Chemical Inc. in Dalton has been newly cited for 17 safety and health violations—nine serious, five repeat, and three other-than-serious—after one worked died and another was hospitalized when hazardous vapors released from an ovepressurized reactor in July 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced.

The chemical vapors burned the respiratory system of Jason Jeffers, a 28-year-old father of three, who succumbed to his injuries in November due to a combination of resulting health problems, including lung and kidney failure, his wife, Robin Jeffers, told DaltonDailyCitizen.com.

OSHA said it had initiated its inspection after a media referral alleged a chemical release at the facility.

Jason Jeffers
Facebook.com / InMemoryofJasonJeffers

Jason Jeffers, 28, died in November after chemical vapors burned his respiratory system in the July 2014 release.

MFG manufactures and distributes a range of chemicals, including polymers, esters, surfactants and other specialty products.

'Lack of Commitment'

The company did not respond Wednesday (Jan. 7) to a request for comment. 

"MFG continues to violate OSHA standards, exposing workers to serious hazards associated with Process Safety Management," said Christi Griffin, director of OSHA's Atlanta-West Area Office.

"Allowing repeated violations demonstrates the company's lack of commitment to worker safety and health."

A growing focus for OSHA in recent years, Process Safety Management standards govern the management of hazardous chemicals in a variety of facilities, to prevent a catastrophic release.

17 Violations

The new citations can be viewed here and here.

Repeat citations allege failure to:

  • Ensure that the reactor system alarm provided early warning for worker evacuation;
  • Train workers on the hazards of permit-required confined spaces;
  • Ensure that manufacturing equipment had an adequate pressure-relief design;
  • Securely mount fuel containers; and
  • Develop piping and instrument diagrams for process equipment.

Repeat violations exist when an employer was cited for the same or a similar violation within the last five years. MFG was cited in 2012 for similar violations, according to OSHA.

MFG Chemical
MFGChemical.com

The most recent OSHA inspection netted 17 citations for MFG. The company was also cited for 20 violations in 2012, 15 in 2005, and 20 in 2004, according to OSHA records.

Serious violations, which carry substantial probability of death or serious injury, include alleged failure to:

  • Guard floor openings and pits;
  • Establish and implement written changes to the chemical manufacturing process;
  • Identify previous workplace incidents that had the potential for catastrophic results;
  • Take precautions to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors; and
  • Maintain containment for flammable materials.

Other-than-serious violations included failing to provide medical examinations for workers required to use respirators and not conducting fit tests for respirators.

The company has 15 business days from receiving the citations to comply, contest the findings, or request an informal conference with OSHA's area director.

Past Violations

MFG has had an intense history with OSHA over the past decade.

OSHA inspected MFG in 2012 and issued one other-than-serious and 19 serious citations related to Process Safety Management. Penalties were later reduced from $77,000 to $57,055.

That inspection was launched after an explosion blew a hole through the company's roof, sending nearly 50 employees of other nearby companies to the hospital for decontamination. The six workers inside the plant were not injured.

MFG was also cited for 15 violations in 2005 and 20 violations in 2004, according to OSHA records.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Confined space; Construction chemicals; Enforcement; Fatalities; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Process Safety Management; Workers

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