Occupational Health & Safety

OSHA Fines St. Louis Chemical Company $1.2 Million

OSHA announced Wednesday it has issued 21 willful citations, 20 of them cited on a per-instance basis, and $1.2 million in fines against St. Louis, Mo.-based G.S. Robins & Co., doing business as Ro-Corp Inc. G.S. Robins has been in business since 1923. OSHA began an investigation after learning eight workers were hospitalized for treatment because they had been exposed to para-nitroaniline (PNA) dust. The organic chemical can cause methemoglobinemia, which reduces the blood's ability to transport oxygen.

OSHA said the eight workers were performing a chemical transfer operation at the East St. Louis plant when the PNA dust was released, settling on work surfaces and the workers themselves.

A November 2001 Mallinckrodt Baker, Inc. MSDS for PNA says workers who handle it should use a fume hood and be equipped with gloves and goggles. Primary exposure routes are listed as inhalation and skin contact because PNA is readily absorbed through human skin.

The citations say Robins failed to provide all eight employees with the correct PPE for transferring PNA; failed in four instances to train on the use of PPE and on working with hazardous chemicals; failed in three instances to provide PPE training and training on specific PNA transfer procedures; and failed in five instances to fit test employees using respirators.

All of the employees returned to work two to three days later, and Robins has stopped packaging PNA and has updated its safety procedures, Jay Brown, vice president of sales for G.S. Robins, told the St. Louis Business Journal on Wednesday. Robins has 15 business days from its receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Peoria, Ill., or contest the citations and penalties before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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