L&I industrial hygiene and safety inspectors spent 15 days at the Moses Lake site between Sept. 28, 2009 and Nov. 12, 2009. The inspection included several on-site evaluations; interviews with managers, employees and technical workers; and a review of certain documents and records. Ultimately, the inspectors found 10 serious violations and four general violations at REC Silicon.
“REC Silicon has made meaningful progress over the past few years in improving safety at this site. However, important work remains to be done if employees are to be fully protected from the significant hazards associated with the chemical processes,” said Michael Silverstein, assistant director of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “The company was very cooperative during our inspection and we expect that cooperation will continue.”
The inspection of REC Silicon was part of a national effort by federal and state safety and health agencies to inspect workplaces that have the potential to release highly hazardous chemicals. At the REC Silicon facility in Moses Lake, the chemicals in use include hydrogen, an explosive gas, and silane, which can ignite upon contact with the air.
L&I inspectors noted that the company has taken measures to mitigate the risks of working with these materials, including creating a process safety management team, but their efforts have not yet been enough to come into compliance with safety regulations.
Among the violations inspectors found were:
· Failure to inspect and test the mechanical integrity of valves and other critical instruments on production equipment in a manner consistent with good engineering practices or the manufacturer’s recommendations.
· A pressure-relief valve that did not vent to a safe location away from workers.
· Inadequately maintained respirators.
· A lack of documented follow-up on safety incidents or management of change procedures, which are written plans for handling modifications to machinery making up the production process.
· A lack of written protocols directing workers on how to raise safety issues with managers.
REC Silicon has 15 days from the receipt of the citation to appeal.