OSHA Proposes More than $46,000 in Fines for Chlorine Gas Leak

OSHA has cited Metalor Technologies for 10 alleged serious violations of safety standards, with $46,500 in fines, following an inspection prompted by a Nov. 7, 2008, chlorine gas leak at the company's North Attleboro, Mass., metals refining plant.

OSHA's inspection found deficiencies in the plant's Process Safety Management (PSM) program, a detailed set of requirements and procedures employers must follow to proactively assess and address hazards associated with processes and equipment that use large amounts of hazardous chemicals. In this case, the process involved the use of chlorine gas to purify precious metals.

"The consequences of a leak or other incident involving large amounts of chlorine can be severe and catastrophic," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for southeastern Massachusetts. "That's why it is vitally important that each element of the process be rigorously, completely, and continuously scrutinized and adjusted to minimize hazards and enhance the workers' safety and health."

Specifically, the company had not: compiled information on the chemicals, technology, and equipment used in the purifying process; performed an initial process hazard analysis; developed and implemented written procedures covering the process, its ongoing integrity, and any changes to it; audited the process at least once every three years; and obtained and evaluated the safety and health programs of outside contractors working in the plant. The company also failed to post a sign identifying a confined space.

These conditions resulted in the issuance of the 10 serious citations. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known. Detailed information about OSHA's PSM standard is available online at www.osha.gov/SLTC/processsafetymanagement/index.html.

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