OSHA Proposes Million-Dollar Penalty to St. Louis Area Chemical Distributor

Feb. 26, 2009
OSHA cited St. Louis, Mo.-based G.S. Robins & Co., doing business as Ro-Corp Inc., for alleged willful, repeat and serious violations of federal workplace safety standards, proposing more than $1.2 million in penalties for numerous violations relating to the handling of hazardous chemicals at the company’s facility in East St. Louis.

OSHA began an inspection at the East St. Louis site after learning that employees had been admitted to several local hospitals after being contaminated with an unknown powder. The eight hospitalized individuals, OSHA later learned, were exposed to the chemical para-nitroaniline (PNA), a poison that causes methemoglobinemia, resulting in the reduction of the blood’s ability to transport oxygen. The employees had been performing a chemical transfer operation at the East St. Louis worksite when chemical dust was released, settling on work surfaces and the employees.

“There are means available to safely handle deadly chemicals such as this, and those means were ignored,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Donald G. Shalhoub. “Those who ignore safe practices and OSHA regulations are inviting tragedy into the lives of their employees and their families, and this cannot be tolerated.”

PNA is highly toxic and can be fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. All the employees exposed showed ill effects from their exposure and recovered after treatment.

As a result of its investigation, OSHA issued 21 willful citations, 20 of which were cited on a per-instance basis, relating to eight instances of failing to provide employees with the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) for transferring PNA; four instances of failing to provide training on the use of PPE and on working with hazardous chemicals; three instances of failing to provide PPE training and training on specific PNA-transfer procedures; and five instances of failing to fit-test employees using respirators.

OSHA also issued a repeat citation for failing to provide an eyewash/shower in corrosive chemicals areas, and an additional 16 serious citations for hazards associated with the transfer of PNA and other workplace practices. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Repeat violations are issued when an employer has been previously cited for the same, or a substantially similar, violation within three years of the final order date.

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

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!