Flammable Vapors Lead to Fatality, $127K Fine

OSHA has cited American Packaging Corp. in Columbus, Wis., with 29 alleged serious violations of federal workplace health and safety standards following an investigation into a worker's death.

The agency began its inspection in October 2009 after learning from the company that a maintenance technician was killed during an explosion at the plant. Flammable vapors were present when the worker was using a grinder to cut off a bolt while installing a metal floor threshold, OSHA said.

American Packaging has been cited with 26 serious health violations and fined $108,450. Some of these violations include failing to provide safe work practice procedures for hot work in a confined space, failing to properly train workers in procedures to safely maintain equipment, the lack of a proper emergency response plan, the lack of procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services, not having appropriate personal protective equipment for workers, the absence of lockout/tagout procedures for energy sources, and various process safety management deficiencies.

The company also has been cited with three serious safety violations with $18,900 in proposed penalties for failing to take adequate precautions to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors, to prevent cutting operations in the presence of explosive atmospheres, and to maintain safe handling of equipment in cutting operations. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

"These types of violations show the company's disregard for the safety and welfare of its employees," said OSHA Area Director Kim Stille in Madison, Wis. "Those who ignore safe practices and OSHA regulations are inviting tragedy into the lives of their workers."

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