Worker Dies from Chemical Exposure, Wis. Manufacturer Fined $64,600

One worker died and another was hospitalized from exposure to the chemical toluene at the company’s Theresa, Wis., manufacturing plant on Nov. 29.

OSHA has cited Vivid Image Inc. with 12 safety violations—including two willful-- after one worker died and another was hospitalized from exposure to the chemical toluene at the company’s Theresa, Wis., manufacturing plant on Nov. 29. Proposed penalties total $64,600.

Two willful violations involved workers not wearing respiratory protection while working with the chemical toluene in an unventilated area and exposure to toluene beyond the peak level of 500 parts per million.

OSHA guidelines limit peak toluene exposure to 10 minutes per single time period for any eight-hour shift, with a time weighted average exposure of 200 parts per million. Toluene is a clear, colorless liquid used in a variety of industries and is a common solvent for products such as paints, thinners and glues. Vivid Image specializes in coating production and micro screens.

"Vivid Image has a responsibility to monitor workers' exposure to known chemicals in its facility, ensure usage of protective equipment, and train workers in workplace hazards," said Kim Stille, OSHA's area director in Madison, Wis. "OSHA is committed to protecting workers on the job."

Additionally, 10 serious safety and health violations include a failure to reasonably evaluate toluene air concentrations; shut off the ventilation system and block the exhaust duct while applying screen coating material containing toluene; disallow ignition sources inside the coating room where flammable material was mixed and applied; develop and implement a written hazard communication program; provide worker training on physical and health hazards of coating material; properly storing flammable liquids; provide guarding on a table saw; prevent exposed electrical wires using extension cords instead of permanent wiring; and provide fork truck training.

Due to the willful nature of some of the violations, OSHA has placed Vivid Image in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

The company discontinued operations around the time of the incident. It could not immediately be reached for comment.

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