Fines Follow Fires at Coating Maker


Three separate, and apparently unreported, fires at an industrial coatings plant have triggered a strong response from federal health and safety officials.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued citations for one willful, two repeat and five serious safety violations at Quest Specialty Coatings in Menomonee Falls, WI.

Proposed fines total $132,000 for the Charleston, SC-based coating maker, which negotiated a sharply reduced OSHA fine in 2013 for similar violations cited in 2012.

Founded in 2003, Quest Specialty Chemicals has three businesses that produce a wide range of coatings for the automotive, industrial and construction markets. Its website says the company was established "by chemical industry veterans to become a leader in specialty chemicals and coatings."

Quest Specialty Coatings, the facility cited by OSHA, is one of the company's industrial coatings manufacturing plants, an OSHA spokesman said.

Company Responds

Quest spokeswoman Laura D. Yerkey said in an email Wednesday (Oct. 29) that the company had just received the citations and was reviewing them.

"We intend to point out to OSHA why we disagree with the citations and utilize the processes available for that purpose," Yerkey wrote. "We take safety very seriously at Quest and regularly review opportunities for improvement."

Chemical Hazards

Most of the new citations allege violations of OSHA's 1991 Process Safety Management standards, which detail requirements for managing highly hazardous chemicals in work processes.

U.S. Chemical Safety Board

Process Safety Management standards specify requirements for handling of highly hazardous chemicals. The goal is to prevent accidental releases and catastrophic incidents such as the 2005 BP Refinery explosion in Texas City, TX, that killed 15 people and injured more than 170.

Process Safety Management has become a major concern in the last generation, in the wake of such high-profile catastrophes as the 1984 Bhopal, India, explosion that killed 2,000 people; the 1989 Phillips disaster in the Houston Ship Channel that killed 23 people; the 2005 BP Products refinery explosion in Texas City, TX, that killed 15; and many others.

OSHA said its inspection of the Quest plant May 1 followed a complaint about three fires at the facility, which has 130 employees.

Willful Violations

The willful citation—OSHA's highest level of infraction—alleges lack of inspections and testing of process equipment, including paint manufacturing and dust collection equipment. The fine for this one count is $70,000.

The lapses include lack of inspection or testing on:

  • Emergency fire control valves on piping systems used to transfer solvents, resins and finished paint products;
  • Bypass valves used in manufacturing processes that transfer propellant gases through pipe systems;
  • Pumps used in blending and filling operations and in solvent and resin transfer;
  • Backpressure Regulator and Relief valves used in paint manufacturing processes that transfer propellant gases through pipe systems; and
  • Exhaust dust collection systems.
Georgia Tech

PSM standards require that each piece of equipment in the covered process be numbered and identified by piping and instrument diagrams and block diagrams.

Quest was cited for that violation and four others at the same facility in December 2012.

After the company appealed, the five serious violations were upheld, but the total fine was reduced to $19,350 from $41,400.

Repeat, Serious Violations

The repeat violations allege:

  • Inaccurate, incomplete and outdated piping and instrument diagrams for a variety of process equipment;
  • Failure to document that the reclaim distillation process and dust collection system comply with good engineering practices; and
  • Failure to provide "clear, comprehensive written operating procedures" for safely conducting activities.

Serious violations allege, among other hazards:

  • Inadequate inspections of energy control procedures (specifically, failing to address the potential for static accumulation and discharge); and
  • Inadequate training of employees who maintain equipment that uses highly hazardous liquids and gases.

A violation is considered serious if death or serious injury could result from a hazard an employer knew, or should have known, exists.

"Quest Specialty Coatings has a responsibility to ensure the safe operation of its plant by making sure employees are trained in the hazards of manufacturing paints," said Chris Zortman, OSHA's area director in Milwaukee. "Workers should not be put at risk because this company failed to implement required protections."

This post was updated at 10:20 a.m. ET Oct. 29, 2014, to include a statement from Quest Specialty Chemicals.


Tagged categories: Certifications and standards; Coating Materials; Coatings manufacturers; Explosions; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Process Safety Management; Quest Specialty Chemicals

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