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Inadequate Response to Chemical Leak Leads to $83,500 in OSHA Fines

A freight hauler's failure to adequately train and equip its workers to respond safely to a chemical release has resulted in a total of $83,500 in proposed OSHA fines.

Yellow Freight System, based in Overland Park, Kan., was cited for alleged repeat and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an OSHA inspection prompted by a Sept. 16, 2002, spill of the hazardous chemical pyridine/2-chloropyridine at its North Reading, Mass., terminal.

OSHA's inspection found the employees who responded to the release lacked the required training to do so and also failed to wear required personal protective equipment, including appropriate respirators, hand protection and impervious chemical protection suits, explained Richard Fazzio, OSHA's area director for northeastern Massachusetts.

"The lack of these basic safeguards can only increase the dangers posed by a hazardous chemical release," he said. "It's imperative that workers be properly trained and equipped to respond to such incidents, both for their own health and that of their fellow workers."

Fazzio explained that the bulk of the fine, $75,000, is for four alleged repeat violations. Yellow Freight was previously cited for substantially similar violations at facilities in Houston, Tampa, Fla., Albany, N.Y., and Shreveport, La. Two of the citations address the lack of training and appropriate protective equipment for the workers who responded to the release, while the other two concern the use of defective forklift trucks and fall hazards from missing guardrails. OSHA issues repeat citations when an employer has previously been cited for substantially similar violations and those citations have become final.

The inspection also identified three alleged serious violations, with $8,500 in proposed penalties, for exposed live electrical conductors, a slipping hazard and a ladder with inadequate side railings. OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

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