Combustible Dust Exposure Leads to Georgia Company's $55,250 Fine

Serious citations were issued for violations that included exposing workers to explosion hazards resulting from inadequate dust control, exposing workers to dust without respiratory protection, and failing to clean up thick dust accumulations.

OSHA has cited Protech Environmental South Inc., doing business as U.S. Erosion Control Products Inc., following an inspection that uncovered 46 alleged safety and health hazards including worker exposure to heavy accumulations of combustible dust. Proposed penalties total $55,250.

After receiving a complaint, OSHA began an inspection in August 2010 at the company's site in Willacoochee, Ga. Serious citations were issued for violations that included exposing workers to explosion hazards resulting from inadequate dust control, exposing workers to dust without respiratory protection, failing to clean up thick dust accumulations, using unapproved electrical equipment and forklifts in locations that may include flammable or combustible materials, absence of a fire extinguisher in a straw storage area, and fire extinguishers missing from their mounts.

Additional serious citations included exposing workers to fall hazards, electrical hazards, obstructed exit routes, hazards related to the use of liquid propane gas, amputation hazards from a lack of machine guards, hazards from damaged forklifts, and hazards related to lack of eye protection and lack of a hearing conservation program. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"Combustible dust is a major safety and health hazard, and employers must recognize and correct hazards that expose their employees to death or serious physical harm," said Robert Vazzi, OSHA's area director in Savannah.

OSHA initiated its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program on Oct. 18, 2007, to inspect facilities that generate or handle combustible dust that poses a deflagration/explosion or other fire hazard. Following a massive sugar dust explosion at Imperial Sugar's Port Wentworth, Ga., facility on Feb. 7, 2008, that killed 14 workers and injured many more, OSHA revised the combustible dust program to include more inspections and to focus on industries with frequent and high consequence dust incidents. More information on combustible dust is available at http://www.osha.gov/dsg/combustibledust/index.html.

After the inspection, the company moved to Pearson, Ga., where it continues to produce erosion control products using natural materials such as straw.

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