Chemical Plant Fined $1.5 Million After Fatal Blast

HR & Safety

Federal workplace safety officials levied a $1.5 million penalty against an Illinois silicone chemical products manufacturer for safety violations after four workers died in a May explosion and fire at the company’s plant.

OSHA investigators determined that AB Specialty Silicones of Waukegan failed to ensure that electrical equipment and installations in the production area of the plant complied with OSHA electrical standards and were approved for hazardous locations.

The company also used forklifts powered by liquid propane to transport volatile flammable liquids, and used the forklifts in areas where employees handled and processed volatile flammable liquid and gases, creating the potential for ignition.

In all, OSHA cited AB Specialty Silicones for 12 willful federal violations and issued $1,591,176 in penalties.

The victims were trapped in a massive explosion at the industrial plant on May 3, 2019.

Three of the victims warned co-workers to leave the building before the blast, which scattered debris for miles.

‘Deadly Consequences

“Employers must employ hazard recognition to protect workers from harm, especially in high hazard industries,” said Loren Sweatt, OSHA’s principal deputy assistant secretary of labor.

“By ignoring safety and health requirements, this employer created an unsafe work environment with deadly consequences.”

OSHA issued the penalties Oct. 25.

The company has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA provides employers with resources on electrical safety and using forklifts when working with hazardous materials.

Ohio Enforcement

In other OSHA enforcement, two former managers at an Ohio aluminum plant were sentenced to probation and ordered to pay fines in a fatality investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The two, from Extrudex Aluminum’s plant in North Jackson, admitted to conspiring to obstruct justice after a court found they tried to hide information and intimidate employees from speaking to OSHA investigators regarding a 2012 employee fatality.

Brian L. Carder was sentenced Oct. 15 to three years of probation with weekend confinement for the first five months and ordered to pay a $20,100 fine.

Paul Love was sentenced Oct. 22 to three years of probation, including three months of home confinement, and fined $1,100.

The case stems from an Oct. 30, 2012 incident in which a 21-year-old worker was killed when a rack containing hot aluminum parts tipped over and pinned him in an oven. A co-workers was also severely injured.

Plan Devised

The indictment says the two managers devised a plan to coerce subordinates—by suggesting their jobs may be in jeopardy—to draft statements to recant previous emails about safety issues at the plant to conceal that management had not acted on those concerns.

Love also gave false information about safety issues during an OSHA interview.

Extrudex Aluminum admitted to one willful and seven serious workplace violations, and agreed to pay a $112,000 penalty.

In addition, the court sentenced the company to three years of probation and ordered it to pay a $250,000 fine after it admitted to concealing knowledge of a felony in connection with efforts to hide information from OSHA inspectors.

“Employers cannot mislead or coerce workers to mislead federal investigators,” Sweatt said. “Further, employers are required to operate workplaces free of hazardous conditions posing risk to worker safety and health.”

N.J. Enforcement

In a third enforcement action, OSHA cited a New Jersey company for multiple workforce violations, including four willful safety citations, at its Pennsauken plant.

Aruvil International, a commercial and residential fencing company, was cited for willfully violating federal standards related to lockout/tag out procedures to prevent machine startup, machine guards, and proper warehouse lighting.

OSHA also cited the company for an obstructed loading dock, and blocked electrical disconnects for forklift truck chargers.

The company faces $370,298 in penalties.

“OSHA has inspected Aruvil International Inc. three times since 2015, and repeated violators cannot be tolerated,” Sweatt said. “Employers who do not comply with the law will continue to see full and fair enforcement.”

OSHA offers resources on what can be done to control hazardous energy, and recognizing and controlling common amputation hazards when using machinery.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).


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