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R+L Carriers Putting Employees at Risk, OSHA Says

March 3, 2015
OSHA says workers were ‘essentially defenseless’ in dealing with a chemical spill.

Untrained R+L Carriers Shared Services LLC workers managed to prevent an explosion and fire after a solvent spill at the company’s Wallingford, Conn. freight shipping terminal.

A forklift was being used to transfer a pallet of tetrahydrofuran – a highly flammable liquid – from one truck to another when a 55-gallon drum was accidentally punctured ad the chemical leaked to the ground beneath the truck. Workers, who didn’t have proper training or PPE, tried to contain the spill using sorbent material and by cordoning off the area, OSHA investigators said.

"These workers were essentially defenseless. They did not know how to evaluate the hazards involved, what personal protective equipment to use and what steps to follow to contain the spill safely. Worse, no one present at the terminal did," said Robert Kowalski, OSHA's area director in Bridgeport. "These deficiencies in emergency response by R+L Carriers put its employees at risk of death or serious injury."

Investigators determined that the terminal’s management did not have an emergency response plan and hadn’t trained workers as first responders.

OSHA cited R+L Carriers with two repeated and four serious violations, and the company owes $86,900 in proposed fines over the findings from the Oct. 6, 2014, spill.

The repeated violations are from a 2011 OSHA inspection of an R+L Carriers terminal in Chicago.

Management did not evaluate the hazards associated with tetrahydrofuran; failed to provide the responding employees with appropriate respiratory protection and PPE; and did not have a qualified person on-site to oversee the response; the emergency action plan did not include procedures for timely reporting of emergency events;  employees had not been briefed on updates to the plan; and the forklift that punctured the drum was not operated properly.

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