Plastics Manufacturer Faces Over $33,000 In Penalties Following Fire

Following an explosion and fire at a New Haven, Conn., plastics manufacturer, OSHA cites the company for its apparent failure to adequately\r\naddress safety issues involving a hazardous chemical.

Following an explosion and fire at a New Haven, Conn., plastics manufacturer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the company for its apparent failure to adequately address safety issues involving a hazardous chemical and issued proposed fines of more than $33,000.

OSHA began its inspection of Saint Gobain Performance Plastics Inc. on Jan. 23, after the New Haven fire marshal notified the agency about an explosion and fire that occurred in the plant''s coating department while employees were splicing together rolls of coated fiberglass cloth. The coating operation uses large amounts of toluene, a flammable and toxic chemical.

"Our inspection found that the company had no written procedures instructing workers on how to safely perform the splicing," said Robert W. Kowalski, OSHA area director in Bridgeport. "OSHA''s process safety management standard requires that employers establish and use such procedures for any process that involves large quantities of toxic, flammable, reactive or explosive chemicals."

As a result, OSHA cited the company for an alleged repeat violation and proposed a fine of $17,500. A second repeat citation, with a $12,500 proposed fine, was issued for inadequate hazard analysis, because the company did not include sampling for toluene when assessing the need for respirators for employees working in the coating department.

A repeat citation is issued when a substantially similar violation was cited during a previous OSHA inspection and that citation has become final. Citations had previously been issued at this location in May 1999, when the facility was operating under the name FURON.

The company also faces a $3,500 fine for an alleged serious violation for obstructed ventilation in one work area. OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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