These Things Don’t Have To Happen

Following basic safety precautions woud keep employees like these injury-free.

Today we have a guest post from my colleagues Leonard Jernigan of North Carolina and Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

A blog post (below) by Jon Gelman about OSHA violations at the Anthony River, Inc plant is another example of why we need to change the lax culture of safely compliance in America. It’s human nature to pick out articles in newspapers, magazines and on-line that interest you, and when I see articles about plant explosions (like the chemical plant explosion in Apex, NC or the chicken processing fire in Hamlet, NC), or mine disasters (West Virginia), or oil spills (Louisiana), I have a heightened awareness because I have represented people in similar tragedies and I know what they are going though.

People die and families are devastated, and the really sad thing is that it didn’t have to happen. Most of us may notice these events, but until it happens to you it’s usually just a news item and not much more. Employers don’t want these things to happen, but unfortunately some of them are willing to gamble with heath and safety. They have liability insurance and workers’ compensation to clean up the mess they make, and some times they actually think the risk is worth it. No life is worth that risk.

People die and families are devastated, and the really sad thing is that it didn’t have to happen.

Here is Jon’s post (reprinted with permission):

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Anthony River Inc. for nine serious and three repeat violations of workplace safety standards after an employee was burned at the metal finisher’s Syracuse plant.

“While it is fortunate that no life was lost here, this is a graphic example of the harm that workers and businesses can suffer when basic, common-sense and legally required safeguards are neglected,” said Christopher Adams, OSHA’s area director in Syracuse.

On Sept. 20, flammable vapors ignited in a storage room holding more than 800 gallons of flammable liquids, and a plant employee who tried to extinguish the fire sustained burns that were not life-threatening. OSHA’s inspection identified several safety deficiencies involving the storage and dispensing of flammable liquids, including a lack of ventilation in the storage room. Additionally, the room was not constructed to meet the National Fire Protection Association’s required fire-resistance rating, numerous containers of flammable liquids were open and uncovered, flammable liquids were dispensed without the nozzle and container being electrically bonded, and a lighter was allowed to be ignited in the storage room.

Other serious hazards include a lack of fire extinguisher training, blocked fire extinguisher access, ungrounded electrical equipment, unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals, and uninspected and unrated overhead hoists and lifting devices. The serious violations carry a total of $33,000 in fines. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The repeat violations, carrying $18,680 in fines, involve hazards similar to those cited against the company by OSHA in 2010 and 2011, including the lack of an operating sprinkler system for a paint spray booth where flammable paint was used, the accumulation of combustible residue on paint spray booths and the use of an extension cord in place of fixed wiring. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

“Hazards can be eliminated by an effective illness and injury prevention program in which management and employees work together to identify and prevent hazardous conditions,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s New York regional administrator.

Proposed penalties total $51,680. Anthony River Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Syracuse Area Office at 315-451-0808.

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