These Things Don’t Have To Happen: Metal Plant Receives $51K Fine After Employee Is Burned

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It seems like there’s almost a headline a day about OSHA violations, and those are only the ones that make it through OSHA’s process, excluding current investigations and issues never reported to OSHA. In fact, we recently wrote about some OSHA fines that resulted from a grain elevator explosion that killed a gentleman in Nebraska. In the following guest post, our colleagues Leonard Jernigan from North Carolina and Jon Gelman from New Jersey remind us how important it is for workers and employers to care about safety every day and strive towards safer environments for employees.

(Original post by Len Jernigan re-posted with permission.)

Following basic safety precautions woud keep employees like these injury-free.

A recent blog post (below) by Jon Gelman about OSHA violations at the Anthony River, Inc plant is another example of why we need to change the lax culture of safely compliance in America. It’s human nature to pick out articles in newspapers, magazines and on-line that interest you, and when I see articles about plant explosions (like the chemical plant explosion in Apex, NC or the chicken processing fire in Hamlet, NC), or mine disasters (West Virginia), or oil spills (Louisiana), I have a heightened awareness because I have represented people in similar tragedies and I know what they are going though.

People die and families are devastated, and the really sad thing is that it didn’t have to happen. Most of us may notice these events, but until it happens to you it’s usually just a news item and not much more. Employers don’t want these things to happen, but unfortunately some of them are willing to gamble with heath and safety. They have liability insurance and workers’ compensation to clean up the mess they make, and some times they actually think the risk is worth it. No life is worth that risk.

People die and families are devastated, and the really sad thing is that it didn’t have to happen.

Here is Jon’s post (reprinted with permission):

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Anthony River Inc. for nine serious and three repeat violations of workplace safety standards after an employee was burned at the metal finisher’s Syracuse plant.

“While it is fortunate that no life was lost here, this is a graphic example of the harm that workers and businesses can suffer when basic, common-sense and legally required safeguards are neglected,” said Christopher Adams, OSHA’s area director in Syracuse.

On Sept. 20, flammable vapors ignited in a storage room holding more than 800 gallons of flammable liquids, and a plant employee who tried to extinguish the fire sustained burns that were not life-threatening. OSHA’s inspection identified several safety deficiencies involving the storage and dispensing of flammable liquids, including a lack of ventilation in the storage room. Additionally, the room was not constructed to meet the National Fire Protection Association’s required fire-resistance rating, numerous containers of flammable liquids were open and uncovered, flammable liquids were dispensed without the nozzle and container being electrically bonded, and a lighter was allowed to be ignited in the storage room.

Other serious hazards include a lack of fire extinguisher training, blocked fire extinguisher access, ungrounded electrical equipment, unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals, and uninspected and unrated overhead hoists and lifting devices. The serious violations carry a total of $33,000 in fines. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The repeat violations, carrying $18,680 in fines, involve hazards similar to those cited against the company by OSHA in 2010 and 2011, including the lack of an operating sprinkler system for a paint spray booth where flammable paint was used, the accumulation of combustible residue on paint spray booths and the use of an extension cord in place of fixed wiring. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

“Hazards can be eliminated by an effective illness and injury prevention program in which management and employees work together to identify and prevent hazardous conditions,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s New York regional administrator.

Proposed penalties total $51,680. Anthony River Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Syracuse Area Office at 315-451-0808.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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