OSHA Fines Tyler Pipe Co. $196,000 for Safety and Health Hazards

Tyler Pipe Co., of Tyler, Tex., agreed to pay $196,000 in OSHA fines on April 11, the same day the company was cited for serious, repeat and other-than-serious violations of health and safety regulations.

Tyler Pipe has a long and expensive history of OSHA violations. Less than a year ago, in August 2002, Tyler Pipe paid $1 million for violating workplace safety and health standards.

As the saying goes, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Tyler Pipe's parent company, McWane Industries Inc. of Birmingham, Ala., was the subject of a joint investigation by PBS's Frontline, the New York Times and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. titled "A Dangerous Business."

The report characterized the company as having one of the most dangerous working environments in the country.

"OSHA is holding Tyler Pipe accountable for the well being of their employees," said John L. Henshaw, assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "We expect them to step up to the plate and make their facility a safer place for their employees."

OSHA issued the latest citations to Tyler Pipe for 13 serious violations, four repeat violations and one other-than-serious violation from an OSHA inspection initiated Oct. 15, 2002, which was a follow-up to an inspection conducted in December 2000. The citations resulting from the Oct. 15 inspection also include citations resulting from an Oct. 29, 2002, accident at the facility that left an employee seriously injured.

The 13 alleged serious violations address the company's failure to provide protection, including rescue and responding services, for employees working in confined spaces. Other violations include failing to provide adequate fall protection, failure to observe lockout/tagout procedures, failure to repair and maintain safe aisles and passageways; failure to properly store stacked items and failure to properly mark motorized tools. A serious violation is cited when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The four repeat violations were for failure to clearly outline energy control procedures; failure to inspect energy control procedures; failure to provide lockout/tagout procedures to employees regarding energy control, and failure to properly balance loads on lifting devices before being lifted. A repeat violation is when the same or similar violation for which the company has been previously cited is found again upon re-inspection.

Tyler Pipe agreed to pay the $196,000 in penalties, accept the violations and penalties as they were originally classified and to enter into a settlement agreement with OSHA with specific plans for enhancing the company's safety and health programs. These plans include safety programs to cover independent contractors performing work at Tyler Pipe's site and enhanced communication on safety responsibilities.

"Tyler Pipe representatives approached OSHA and agreed to make improvements to the company's safety and health programs," said Kathryn Delaney, OSHA's area director in Dallas. "Progress is being made, and the company is cooperating with OSHA inspections."

It is difficult to predict if Tyler management is serious about improving workplace safety and health. In a previous OSHA action, a June 29, 2000 death of an employee led to proposed OSHA fines of over $1 million in December 2000.

Back in July 2002, Tyler Pipe pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act, leading to the death Horace Hoskin, a maintenance mechanic who was crushed in a conveyor belt. United States Magistrate Judge Judith Guthrie sentenced Tyler Pipe to pay a $250,000 fine and placed the company on probation for one year. During the one-year probation period, OSHA was scheduled to inspect the company four times. The company agreed that it would not commit a federal, state or local criminal offense during the probation period.

No word yet if any criminal charges will be filed following the latest round of OSHA violations.

Tyler Pipe Co. casts and finishes gray-iron pipes and fittings for soil pipe and utility uses and employs approximately 1,600 workers at two plants in Tyler and one facility each in Pennsylvania, Missouri and California. The Tyler facility is organized into a north and south plant, each containing a casting and finishing area, as well as machine tooling and distribution departments.

For more articles about Tyler Pipe, see "Iron Foundry Faces $1 Million in OSHA Fines" and "Tyler Pipe Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges in Employee Death."

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