Amputations Bring 7th OSHA Case
Despite dozens of federal safety citations and more than a million dollars in fines to their employer, two Texas employees have suffered amputations at a Texas pipe fabricator and coating facility.
The new accident at Piping Technology & Products Inc. in Houston has triggered a seventh case by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
This time, OSHA cited the company for one willful violation—its highest level of infraction, reserved for knowing disregard for the law—with a proposed penalty of $70,000.
The case stems from an accident in which two workers at the company lost fingers in hydraulic presses that were not properly guarded. OSHA said four hydraulic presses lacked point-of-operation guarding.
A History of Hazards
Piping Technology has a lengthy history with OSHA.
The company was inspected and cited twice in 2011: once, when it was issued 12 citations (nine serious, one willful and two repeat) and fined $118,000; and once, when it was issued 30 citations—13 of them willful—and fined $1,013,000. Those violations included machinery guarding violations.
The company contested those citations, and the case remains open, with the combined fines currently showing as $650,000.
Founded in 1975, the Houston-based steel fabricator and coating company now owns Sweco Fab, Fronek Anchor/Darling, Pipe Shields, and U.S. Bellows.
That case landed the company in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which targets employers with the worst safety records for follow-up inspections.
Two months after those violations were announced, OSHA cited the company again: this time, for one willful and 11 serious violations and $147,000 in fines related to excessive noise levels, paint shop hazards, methylene chloride exposures and other issues at its facility.
After a 2005 inspection, OSHA issued five serious and three repeat violations and $33,000 in fines against the company. Those were later reduced to six serious, one repeat, and $9,750 in fines.
In 2004, the company was cited on two occasions: once for a serious violation involving hazard communication (the original fine of $1,275 was reduced to $648); and once for one willful, nine serious and two repeat violations and $82,500 in fines. (The case was settled with the willful violation reduced to serious and the fine halved to $41,250.)
The company did not respond Tuesday (June 25) to a request for comment.
'Disregard for Worker Safety'
“Piping Technology and Products continues to expose workers to unguarded hazardous machinery, even though it has been previously cited for the same violation on various pieces of machinery,” said Mark Briggs, OSHA’s Houston South area director.
Founder Durga Agrawal shows one of his first "Big Roll Machines" in an archived photo from the company's website.
“The employer knowingly permitted workers to operate machines without proper guarding. That kind of disregard for worker safety will not be tolerated.”
About the Company
Founded in Durga Agrawal's garage in 1975, Piping Technology & Products Inc. has expanded over the decades through the acquisitions of Sweco Fab, Fronek Anchor/Darling, Pipe Shields, and U.S. Bellows.
Today, with 700 employees, the company provides engineered pipe supports, expansion joints, pre-insulated pipe supports, and other fabricated products and technical services to the chemical, oil and gas industries.
The company's website includes a safety page that says the company is "committed to maintaining a safe enivorment [sic] for our workers."
"Everyone who has agreed to work for Piping Technology implicitly agrees to" follow safety rules, and the company offers "continuous OSHA Compliant safety education," the company says.