OSHA cites employers in Florida, Massachusetts after explosions

Two employers are facing six-figure penalties from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after workplace explosions.

Air Liquide Advanced Materials, Inc. of High Springs, Fla., a global industrial gas producer, faces $201,573 in penalties following a May 2023 explosion that seriously injured several employees, OSHA announced Nov. 16. The employer could have prevented the incident by following required operating procedures in the manufacturing process, according to the agency.

After the explosion, OSHA investigators began an inspection of the production site where diborane, a toxic, colorless, pyrophoric gas, is manufactured, distilled, mixed and transported.

Investigators determined the explosion occurred when a 25-year-old product technician used a heat gun to transfer gas from an aluminum cylinder to a steel cylinder. The technician was airlifted to a trauma center and treated for brain injuries, third-degree burns and a leg amputation. Four other workers suffered various injuries and were treated in hospital.

The agency cited Air Liquide Advanced Materials for intentionally exposing workers to fire and explosion hazards by requiring them to use equipment inherently dangerous in the presence of flammable chemicals and fumes.

OSHA also cited the employer with 12 serious violations for the following omissions:

  • Does not contain safe upper and lower limits for temperatures, pressures and flows, as well as thermal and chemical stability data in process safety information documents;
  • Failure to perform a process hazard analysis to adequately address hazards associated with impure or contaminated materials produced in mixing and reaction processes;
  • Failure to retain and promptly address hazard analysis recommendations and follow-up decisions;
  • Failure to comply with the requirements for the operating limits specified for the cylinder temperatures in written operating procedures;
  • Not to remove equipment in hazardous locations with flammable or combustible properties of specific dust, fibers, gases or vapors; and
  • Incorrectly classifying buildings as process safety management sites and documenting that equipment conforms to recognized good engineering practice.

“By putting production before safety, Air Liquide Advanced Materials changed a young worker’s life forever,” said Scott Tisdale, director of OSHA’s Jacksonville, Fla., regional office, in a statement from the agency. “Our investigation found that the company worked to increase productivity at its High Springs facility but failed to implement safety measures necessary to produce the toxic chemical diborane.”

Drug maker, chemical cited in fatal explosion

PolyCarbon Industries, Inc., a Newburyport, Mass.-based pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturer, faces $298,254 in OSHA fines after a pressure vessel explosion fatally injured an employee, the agency announced Nov. 16.

OSHA inspectors identified several deficiencies in the facility’s process safety management program for highly hazardous chemicals in the production and drying of a chemical product called Dekon 139 and for combustible dust hazards.

The agency found that the employer did not:

  • Determine the flammability hazards of materials used in the manufacturing process of Dekon 139, exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards from combustible dust.
  • Include safe upper and lower temperature limits to prevent decomposition of Dekon 139.
  • Assess the consequences of a deviation in the Dekon 139 manufacturing process.
  • Establish written procedures to maintain the ongoing integrity of process equipment and provide clear instructions on the consequences of deviating from steps in operating procedures.
  • Update process safety information to include steps to avoid the consequences of deviations in temperature, properties and hazards of chemicals used in the process.
  • Update Dekon 139 manufacturing standard operating procedures and its safety data sheet.
  • Review the November 2022 compliance audit report with all affected personnel whose work assignments relate to the findings in the report.
  • Track contract employee injuries and illnesses related to contractor work in process areas.

“The requirements of OSHA’s process safety management standard are strict and comprehensive because failure to meet them can have a serious or catastrophic impact on employees, in this case costing the worker their life,” said Sarah Carl, Andover, Mass. District of OSHA’s office director, in a statement.

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