Occupational Health & Safety

OSHA Files $545,000 in PSM Penalties After Chemical Leak

The case is among the largest penalties proposed by the agency this year. "While I'm grateful that nobody was injured from the incident, I'm alarmed by the egregious nature of the violations we uncovered during our inspection," OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels said.

OSHA announced it has proposed $545,000 in penalties while citing Dover Chemical Co. for 47 health and safety violations, including four alleged willful violations, and has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections. The case began when a breach of a polyvinyl chloride piping system caused a hazmat release that temporarily shut down the company's Dover, Ohio, plant and an adjacent highway on May 21, 2012. No injuries were reported.

OSHA opened an investigation focused on Dover Chemical's compliance with the process safety management standards. "By disregarding OSHA's common-sense regulations, this employer endangered the health and safety of the facility's workers," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "While I'm grateful that nobody was injured from the incident, I'm alarmed by the egregious nature of the violations we uncovered during our inspection."

All of the willful violations involve process safety management. They include failing to correct deficiencies found in compliance audits, and process safety information not detailing the construction materials used for piping and piping system components. According to OSHA, 30 serious violations also relate to PSM, such as inaccurate operating procedures, inadequate information about the hazardous effects of inadvertently mixing different chemicals, not training employees about PSM, and not correcting deficiencies noted during equipment inspections.

Eleven of the remaining violations were classified as serious and two more as other-than-serious.

The Dover plant employs about 175 workers and produces chlorinated paraffin, additives for flame-resistant products, and other additives for the plastic, rubber coating, and adhesive and textile product industries. It has been inspected by OSHA four previous times during the past five years, according to the OSHA news release.

Dover Chemical issued a press release May 22 describing the event as an overheating incident in one of its phosphite reactors. "The reactor chamber vented smoke and steam and was eventually contained, and there were no injuries (within the plant), no explosions, no fires and no liquid spills. There was no damage to any of the other plant lines. The facility was evacuated for several hours, and the highway next to the facility was closed temporarily while the situation was under investigation. Most of the plant resumed production by Tuesday May 23rd. Dover does not expect any significant order delays as a result of the incident, which remains under investigation," it said.

"We very much appreciate the response to the incident at our facility by all local safety forces," company President Dwain Colvin said in a statement issued at the time. "The Dover Fire Department and Chief Volkert demonstrated the hours of training they have invested in emergency response and incident management paid handsome dividends. The ability to organize several responding agencies and surrounding area safety departments to coordinate contingent safety alternatives while plant personnel evaluated the situation is a tribute to Chief Volkert, Safety Director Tweed Vorhees and Mayor Homrighausen. Decisions have to be made quickly and instructions must be given precisely to protect plant personnel, responders and the community. We appreciate and thank all emergency personnel and agencies who assisted. The issue in the plant was handled very well by all of our employees. Our operations, technical and engineering teams acted swiftly and professionally to mitigate damage and to insure safety. Our safety personnel executed their tasks as planned and as a result no injuries occurred to plant personnel or responders. There was an obvious sense of urgency without panic. The situation was evaluated, several alternative solutions presented and the proper selection executed without further incident. Our goals are always to operate our facilities without incident, but to be prepared if operational issues occur. Our foremost response to any incident is to protect the safety of everyone on and off site with no environmental harm and mitigation of damages."

For information about the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, visit http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=4503. To read the citations, visit this page.

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