Fines of $262,000 proposed for aerosol paint manufacturer

Published:  12 September, 2013

Consequences of explosion and fire exacerbated by blocked exits – ‘unacceptable for any business, especially one handling hazardous materials and chemicals daily’.

Fox Valley Systems Inc (Cary, Illinois) has been cited for multiple safety violations following an explosion and fire that resulted in serious injuries to three employees on March 6 at the Cary plant. The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for 26 safety violations, including two willful violations where locked doors impeded exit routes and snow blocked exits, slowing employees from exiting the plant quickly.

In addition to the proposed penalties of $262,000 the manufacturer has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

The explosion was caused by the ignition of flammable vapours that then caused a fire. "In part, workers were injured in this tragic explosion because they could not get out quickly because of blocked exit doors. This is unacceptable for any business, and especially for one handling hazardous materials and chemicals daily," said Nick Walters, regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago.

Obstructed exit routes and other violations

Fox Valley Systems Inc. was cited for six willful violations. Two of the willful violations concerned exit doors locked from the outside and the failure to provide unobstructed exit routes. As an example, an employee with clothing on fire crawled beneath conveyor lines and past a pallet of materials that partially blocked the exit path to forcibly open an exit door latched shut from the outside and blocked by snow. Another willful violation involved workers operating propane-powered industrial trucks in the production area where such use was not approved.

The remaining four willful violations involve OSHA's process safety management standards, including failure to develop and implement written, safe operating and mechanical integrity procedures; ensure that equipment complied with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices; and conduct inspections and tests on process equipment. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for, or plain indifference to, employee safety and health.

A total of 20 serious safety violations include inadequate storage of flammable liquids; various electrical equipment deficiencies; and additional violations of process safety management elements, including employee participation, process safety information, implementation of safe work practices, employee training, emergency action planning and alarm systems, process hazard analysis and compliance audits.

The current citations (42 pages) may be viewed here.

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