OSHA levies $424,000 fine against Spooner plant, site of March explosion
The federal government has proposed $424,000 in fines against the Spooner plant where two workers were critically burned in a March 18 explosion. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration charges that Cortec Cor...
The federal government has proposed $424,000 in fines against the Spooner plant where two workers were critically burned in a March 18 explosion.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration charges that Cortec Corp. failed to develop and implement a process safety management system to handle the flammable liquid propellants at the aerosol and liquid container filling plant. OSHA has issued six willful citations, alleging violations of federal safety standards with proposed penalties totaling $378,000.
OSHA also has issued ten serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $46,000, alleging deficiencies with employee training, personal protective equipment, forklifts, respiratory protection, electrical hazards, storage of flammable and combustible materials and safe equipment de-energization practices.
"If adequately developed and implemented, each cited process safety management deficiency would have led to an action resulting in the avoidance of this explosion," Mark Hysell, director of OSHA's area office in Eau Claire, Wis., said today in a news release "This kind of indifference to proven approaches to safe handling of flammable materials will not be tolerated."
The company acknowledged receiving the report and said it will begin evaluating the report.
"Since this incident occurred, we have collaborated with OSHA and we will continue to do so," Anna Vignetti, Cortec's chief operating officer, said in a news release. "We are committed to moving forward through this process and will now evaluate their comments and prepare to continue our dialogue with OSHA."
"This is no doubt an unusual and unexpected combination of events that led to the incident on March 18," Vignetti said. "Since then, our focus has been on our injured employees - both of whom have returned to work. We are now in the process rebuilding of our facility, and cooperating with OSHA to ensure we are in full compliance and doing everything possible to ensure safe operations."
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, to request a meeting with OSHA, or to contest the citations before an independent commission.
According to OSHA, Cortec Corp. maintains a total of four facilities located in both Wisconsin and Minnesota, which federal or state OSHA agencies have inspected on eight occasions since 1997. Citations at the four facilities have addressed electrical hazards, machine guarding and lockout/tagout deficiencies, storage and handling of combustible and flammable liquids, and other violations of workplace safety regulations.
The Spooner plant makes products for corrosion control. Among the manufacturer's duties is placing products in aerosol containers.
According to the fire district, the March "explosion was caused by the ignition of an accumulation of propane, which is used as a propellant in aerosol cans."
The blast happened when the plant was switching production of one product to another, and workers were trying to purge vapor from a pipe in the plant's gas house. The workers had problems purging the line, which allowed gas to build up and drift into the production area where Cory LaBonte was operating an electric-powered forklift. The lift ignited the gas.
LaBlonte and Aaron Merchant, who was working in the production area, were critically burned.