Aluminum Manufacturer Fined $139,800 for Combustible Dust Dangers

"The level of disregard for workers' safety demonstrated by this employer is irresponsible. Although the employer knows the fire and explosion hazards associated with the accumulation of combustible dust, a choice was made to do nothing about it," said Les Grove, OSHA's area director in Tampa.

Fritz Aluminum Services Inc. has been cited by OSHA with 37 violations for exposing workers to a variety of safety and health hazards, including combustible dust accumulations, at the company's Eustis, Fla., facility. OSHA opened an inspection in September after receiving a complaint. Proposed penalties total $139,800.

Three willful violations involve failing to provide workers with an abrasive blasting suit or apron during sandblasting operations, replace missing and clogged filters in the powder coating booth, and implement a housekeeping program and provide proper ventilation to keep combustible dust accumulations at a minimal level.

Twenty-eight serious violations involve failing to ensure workers were wearing eye and face protection when exposed to chemicals and using compressed air for cleaning; develop a written respiratory protection program for employees required to wear respirators; provide medical evaluations to determine the ability of employees to wear respirators; install a carbon monoxide alarm; train workers on the hazards associated with silica dust, powder coating dust, and acids; develop a hazard communication program; provide sprinklers or fire protection in the powder coating booth area; and protect workers from amputation hazards by guarding machines. Fritz Aluminum also has been cited for the above-ground exposure of PVC piping used to transport compressed air at 130 pounds per square inch and for allowing combustible dust to accumulate on electrical equipment.

Six other-than-serious violations include failing to maintain sanitary conditions in the powder booth, welding area, and break room bathrooms; have forklift operators complete a refresher training course in the last three years; certify the training of forklift drivers; remove defective or unsafe powered industrial trucks from service; appropriately store oxygen and acetylene compressed gas cylinders; and properly label circuit breaker panels.

"The level of disregard for workers' safety demonstrated by this employer is irresponsible. Although the employer knows the fire and explosion hazards associated with the accumulation of combustible dust, a choice was made to do nothing about it," said Les Grove, OSHA's area director in Tampa. "It should not take a fire or explosion to implement necessary safety measures to protect employees."

Due to the repeat violations and the nature of the hazards, OSHA has placed Fritz Aluminum Services in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

Fritz Aluminum Services fabricates aluminum fencing and other miscellaneous equipment.

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