OSHA Cites Contractor Following Chemical Fire

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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