Manhole Covers Plant Cited for Combustible Dust, Electrical Hazards

OSHA has cited Fibrelite, a manufacturer of composite manhole covers, for 21 alleged violations of workplace safety standards at its plant in Pawcatuck, Conn. The company faces a total of $90,500 in proposed fines, chiefly for potential fire and explosion hazards.

Agency inspectors found that combustible particulate solids, which were generated during trimming and repair operations, were not collected into an adequately designed dust collection system, were allowed to accumulate on machinery and surfaces, and were not adequately cleaned up to prevent such buildup. The combustible material was exposed to several potential ignition sources, including an LP gas-powered industrial truck, exposed wiring, and a spark-producing tool, OSHA said.

"A combustible dust explosion can be a catastrophic and fatal event, yet its dangers can be minimized if employers identify and promptly address combustible dust hazards," said Robert Kowalski, OSHA's acting area director in Hartford, Conn. "An effective dust collection system, proper industrial hygiene, and frequent cleaning are critical to preventing a dangerous and potentially fatal buildup of combustible dust in the workplace."

Other hazards identified during OSHA's inspection include improper storage of waste material saturated with combustible residue, flammable liquid waste allowed to drip into an open bucket, inadequate precautions to avoid ignition sources for flammable liquids, a spray booth lacking a sprinkler and adequate grounding, a lack of an emergency action plan, unguarded power presses, a lack of specific energy control procedures for various machines, excess air pressure for a cleaning hose, and several electrical hazards.

These conditions resulted in Fibrelite being issued 20 serious citations with $89,500 in fines. The company also has been issued one other-than-serious citation, with a $1,000 fine, for incorrectly recording injuries and illnesses. 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.

Fibrelite has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, schedule an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Hartford Area Office.

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