Maintenance Worker's Death Leads to 128 Citations

OSHA has issued three Mueller Industries Inc. subsidiaries in Fulton, Miss., 128 citations for allegedly exposing workers to safety and health hazards. The privately held corporation headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., owns and operates 20 facilities located in eight states and two foreign countries. OSHA began its investigation in July 2009 after a maintenance worker employed by Mueller Copper Tube Co. Inc., a subsidiary of Mueller Industries, was killed, and two other workers were injured when naphtha, a flammable liquid of hydrocarbon mixtures, leaked from an electric pump and ignited.

Mueller Copper Tube has been issued willful, repeat, and serious citations. A willful citation with a penalty of $40,000 alleges the failure to repair a corroded live electrical disconnect, which exposed workers to electrical shock. Ten repeat citations with penalties of $150,000 allege failure to guard machinery; unsafe electrical equipment and practices; and failure to label hazardous chemicals. Sixty-nine serious citations, with proposed penalties of $223,500, allege unsafe cranes; fall hazards; unsafe ladders; blocked and inadequate exits; unsafe flammable liquid and compressed gas use and storage; locking out hazardous energy sources during maintenance and service; a lack of machine guards; unsafe electrical equipment and practices; and failure to establish a respiratory protection program.

The initial safety inspection at Mueller Copper Tube was expanded to include Mueller Fittings LLC and Mueller Packaging LLC, two additional subsidiaries of Mueller Industries. Mueller Fittings has been issued 22 serious citations, with penalties of $64,000, alleging the failure to lock out energy sources, unsafe propane storage and handling, overexposure to noise, unsafe material storage, and the likelihood of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Eight repeat citations also have been issued, with penalties of $102,500, alleging a lack of machine guarding, electrical hazards, and the inadequate labeling of hazardous chemicals.

Mueller Packaging has been issued 12 serious citations, with penalties of $28,000, alleging unsafe crane operation, failing to lock out sources of hazardous energy, hazardous chemical exposures, and overexposure to noise; five repeat citations, with penalties of $75,000, alleging an unsafe forklift modification, electrical hazards and inadequate labeling under the hazard communication standard; and one other-than-serious violation, with no penalty, for an electrical deficiency.

"Mueller Industries subsidiaries' dangerous practices exposed workers at their facilities to a variety of hazards that ultimately took one worker's life," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "The significant fines of $683,000 cannot replace this worker's life or bring peace to the family, but they will go a long way in letting this employer know disregarding worker safety and health will not be tolerated."

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The sites were inspected by staff from OSHA's Jackson (Miss.) Area Office.

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