OSHA: Management Ignored Hazards and Worker Fell into Acid-filled Tank

The accident occurred at an auto parts manufacturer in Pell City, Ala.

A man working at WKW Erbsloeh North America Inc.'s Pell City, Ala., facility suffered severe burns to his face and internal organs when he fell backwards and was submerged into a tank filled with corrosive phosphoric and sulfuric acid. An OSHA investigation found safety violations that placed employees in serious peril and led to the worker's injuries.

WKW was issued a willful citation for exposing workers to falls from walkways without railings. OSHA requires walkways, platforms, or runways above or next to dangerous equipment, including chemical tanks, to have railing and toeboards installed.

"Allowing a worker to be injured by a hazard that was known by all is terrible. This worker was doing the right thing, but management was not," said Ramona Morris, director of OSHA's Birmingham Area Office. "Employers have the responsibility to protect employees from injuries and illnesses."

The five serious citations were issued for failing to provide workers with equipment to prevent accidental machine start-up; not ensuring workers followed procedures to prevent accidental machine start-up; failing to monitor air quality inside chemical tanks that workers entered; not training workers on the hazards of confined spaces; and no periodic inspections of worker procedures to prevent accidental machine start-up.

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