Dover Chemical Co. is in hot water with OSHA and has been placed in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Although no injuries were reported as a result of a hazardous release incident in May that shut down the facility and an adjacent highway, OSHA opened an investigation focused on the agency’s standards for process safety management, known as PSM, at facilities that use highly hazardous chemicals. Proposed fines total $545,000.
The release of materials in May resulted from a breach of a polyvinyl chloride piping system. Due to the nature of the hazards and the willful violations cited, Dover Chemical was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities. Dover Chemical Co. also operates a facility in Hammond, Ind., that uses similar procedures and employs 86 workers.
“By disregarding OSHA’s common-sense regulations, this employer endangered the health and safety of the facility’s workers,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “While I’m grateful that nobody was injured from the incident, I’m alarmed by the egregious nature of the violations we uncovered during our inspection.”
The alleged willful OSHA violations all relate to PSM, and include failing to correct deficiencies found in compliance audits, not resolving recommendations identified during a process hazard analysis, having operating procedures that do not include the consequences for deviation or the steps required to correct or avoid deviation from operating limits and process safety information that does not detail the construction materials used for piping and piping system components. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Thirty alleged serious violations also relate to PSM, such as inaccurate operating procedures; inadequate information about the hazardous effects of inadvertently mixing different chemicals, safe upper and lower limits for operating parameters and the lack of chemical reactivity data; and failing to include system design codes and standards. The company also did not train employees about PSM, document that equipment complies with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices, perform inspections and tests on process equipment or correct deficiencies noted during equipment inspections.
An additional 11 alleged serious violations involve unguarded wall and floor openings, failing to test aerial lift controls prior to use, allowing untrained individuals to operate lifts, not developing energy control procedures for the maintenance and servicing of equipment and electrical hazards. 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.
Two alleged other-than-serious violations are not certifying personal protective equipment hazard assessments and not certifying whether powered industrial vehicle training was conducted. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
The Dover facility employs about 175 workers and produces chlorinated paraffins, additives for flame-resistant products and other additives for the plastic, rubber coating, adhesive and textile product industries. The facility has been inspected by OSHA four other times since 2007, resulting in earlier citations for four violations. The company is a subsidiary of New York-based ICC Industries Inc.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.