OSHA Proposes Fines Following Fatal Accident in June

Knowlton Specialty Papers Inc., a Watertown, N.Y. company, exposed workers to serious hazards, including some that led to an explosion that killed one employee and injured five others in June, causing OSHA to issue citations and propose a fine of $89,250.

According to Diane Brayden, area director in Syracuse for OSHA, her office investigated the fatal accident, which occurred at the company's facility at 213 Factory Street around midnight on June 11. The explosion resulted from six dryer cans on a paper coating machine being over-pressurized with steam.

"OSHA standards require employers to protect workers from known hazards," Brayden said. "This tragic accident could have been avoided if the proper equipment were in place and if proper procedures were followed."

The citations allege the company did not provide a pressure relief valve to discharge dangerous excess steam and did not maintain steam pressures to the dryer cans lower than their design pressure. They also allege the company did not establish a design requirement for the dryer cans.

Other alleged serious violations included failure to inspect, maintain and replace defective parts on overhead hoists, lifting hooks and their controls; failure to provide handrails on stairs; and failure to provide fall protection for employees working on platforms and other elevated work surfaces and over dangerous equipment.

In addition, OSHA cited the company for not maintaining clear travel paths to an exit and exit signs. Nip points on paper machine rollers were allegedly unguarded, as were saws and fans, rotating shafts, and pulleys and belts, and there were neither written procedures nor hardware to prevent machines from being powered-on while workers were servicing them. The company also allegedly failed to maintain and provide emergency lighting as well as personal protective equipment for employees when working with electrical hazards.

OSHA also issued serious violations for live electrical parts that were inadequately guarded, and underground storage tanks for flammable liquids that were inadequately vented. The company also allegedly failed to provide an inside storage room for flammable liquids with a raised sill to contain leaks and ventilation to exhaust flammable vapors. Fire extinguishers were not provided in flammable liquids storage areas, and the company did not prevent smoking around flammable liquids.

A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, and/or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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