Enforcement and Inspection

OSHA Issues $139,427 in Penalties After Flash Fire

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced it issued a combined 11 serious violations to four employers and proposed penalties totaling $139,427 following a flash fire and subsequent explosion that seriously injured six workers on September 27, 2021, at Westlake Chemicals in Sulphur, Louisiana.

The agency cited Turn2 Specialty Companies LLC with four serious violations and proposed penalties of $58,008. OSHA cited Turn2 for three serious violations of the welding, cutting, and brazing standard and a serious violation of the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Moreover, OSHA cited Westlake Chemical Lake Charles South with three serious violations of the process safety management and permit-controlled confined space entry standards and proposed penalties of $30,453.

The agency also cited Leak Sealers Inc. with two serious violations of the process safety management standard and proposed penalties of $26,104.

Finally, the agency cited Wastewater Specialties LLC with two serious violations of the benzene and permit-controlled confined space entry standard and proposed penalties of $24,862.

“Employers are responsible for ensuring employees have a safe workplace by having the correct confined space permits and a plan in place to inspect equipment to prevent serious injuries,”Roderic Chube, OSHA’s Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area director, said in an agency statement.

OSHA cites Colo. contractor for trenching violations

OSHA also announced it had issued citations for one willful and five serious violations to Groundworks Colorado LLC, doing business as Foundation Repair of Western Colorado. Following an inspection, the agency determined that the company willfully allowed workers to work in trenches up to 10 feet, 6 inches deep without protective or retaining devices in place.

OSHA also identified serious violations for allowing workers in trenches up to 10 feet, 6 inches without protective helmets, ladders, or other safe means of egress. Additionally, the agency determined that workers had not received training on trenching hazards or how to recognize and control those hazards.

The company also failed to have a competent person inspect the trenches before the start of work, according to the agency, and allowed excavated materials to be placed within 2 feet of the excavation’s edge.

The agency cited Groundwork Colorado for one willful, serious violation of the protective systems standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1926.652). The lack of protective systems exposed employees in the excavation to cave-in hazards, according to the agency.

OSHA also cited serious violations of the construction safety training and education, head protection, and specific excavation requirement standards.

“Every year, workers are hurt or killed in trench incidents that could have been prevented,” OSHA’s Denver Area Director Amanda Kupper said in an agency statement.

“Our investigation determined that Groundworks required workers to enter trenches that it knew were unsafe,” Kupper continued. “They are extremely lucky their willful negligence has not led to a tragedy.”

“Employers in the excavation industry must never allow their employees to be exposed to the risk of deadly cave-in hazards.”