OSHA Cites Contractor Following Chemical Fire

July 27, 2001
OSHA cited W.J. Murphy Construction Co. of Norwell, Mass., for safety violations following a Feb. 5, chemical fire at a\r\nworksite which sent three workers and four firefighters to the hospital.

OSHA cited W.J. Murphy Construction Co. of Norwell, Mass., for nine alleged serious safety violations and proposed $23,800 in fines against the contractor following a Feb. 5, chemical fire at a worksite which sent three workers and four firefighters to the hospital.

The fire occurred during the demolition of a former computer diskette manufacturing plant in Plymoth, Mass.

Murphy Construction employees were cutting pipes which formerly carried the flammable chemicals toluene, cyclohexanone and methyl ethyl ketone solvents, when residual amounts of the toluene and cyclohexanone contained in the pipes spilled onto the concrete floor and were ignited by sparks from the workers'' cutting tools.

"OSHA''s inspection found that Murphy Construction failed to purge, ventilate and test the pipes prior to cutting, and did not instruct employees in the hazards associated with the chemicals and the pipe cutting, lacked written hazard communication information about the chemicals and failed to provide the workers with protective clothing and gloves, face shields and respiratory protection," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts.

"This employer should not have assumed that these pipes were devoid of flammable chemicals," continued Gordon. "The proper procedure would have been to test and purge the pipes before cutting, as well as properly train workers to recognize and address the hazards posed by flammable chemicals. Proper training and preparation are key workplace safety elements; had they been provided, this incident might have been avoided."

The workers were also exposed to fire hazards stemming from failure to adequately train them in fire extinguisher use, unmaintained fire extinguishers and the lack of an effective written fire protection program.

The inspection also identified fall hazards of more than 14 feet, electrocution hazards from the use of ungrounded power tools, tripping hazards from unguarded floor holes, and vehicular hazards from workers not being trained in the safe operation of forklifts.

Murphy Construction has 15 working days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either comply or contest them.

by Virginia Foran

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EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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