News Release USDL: 97-325
Thursday, September 11, 1997
Contact: Susan Fleming (202)219-8151
OSHA PROPOSES FINE OF $824,600 AGAINST
TEXAS FIRM AFTER SIX EMPLOYEES ARE MADE ILL
BY CARBON MONOXIDE
Exposure to potentially lethal carbon monoxide
gas sickened six employees of American Rockwool,
Inc., in Nolanville, Tex., prompting the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today to
propose penalties totaling $824,600 against the
employer for alleged failure to protect the safety
and health of its workers.
"Fortunately, none of the workers died. But some
were close to death when they were rescued by
firefighters," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M.
Herman. "One of my top priorities is to ensure safe
and healthy workplaces for all American workers.
Stiff penalties are warranted for employers who
blatantly disregard safety and health requirements."
American Rockwool, one of ten leading manufacturers
of commercial and residential insulation, employs
92 persons in its manufacturing facility in Nolanville,
a small town near Austin. Its headquarters are in Spring
Hope, N.C., where it has a plant with 80 employees.
At Nolanville, the firm utilizes two cupola furnaces in
manufacturing rock wool insulation.
On March 13, 1997, an employee was ordered to enter
a cupola to level the dirt to rebuild the bottom,
which must be done every 7 to 14 days. The employee
became dizzy and alerted the production foreman, who
was standing outside the cupola, by banging his shovel
against the wall of the furnace.
The foreman lowered a ladder used to enter the
cupola but the employee passed out before he
could be retrieved. The foreman did not enter
the cupola, but also experienced dizziness and
called for other employees to retrieve the overcome
victim. A total of six employees were sickened by
the gases inside the cupola. The fire department
rescued the last two employees remaining in the
OSHA proposed 11 alleged instance-by-instance
willful violations (one for each of 11 employees
who had been exposed to the gases in the cupola
and baghouse) for lack of training on entering
permit-required confined spaces; two alleged
willful violations for failure to implement a
permit-required confined space program and failure
to post danger signs; and one serious violation
for lack of training in hazard communication.
OSHA's standard on permit-required confined
spaces for general industry outlines practices
and procedures employers must follow to protect
workers from the dangers of lack of oxygen or
toxic atmospheres when they enter a confined
space such as the furnace cupola.
"The company president had been made aware
of the need to institute a confined space
program and instructed his plant manager to
do so. The plant manager, however, failed to
require such a program," said Acting Assistant
Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and
Health Gregory R. Watchman.
OSHA previously inspected the facility in
February, 1997, following report of an
amputation, and cited American Rockwool for
41 serious violations, including fall hazards,
machine guarding and electrical violations.
The company agreed to pay penalties of $53,510.
American Rockwool has 15 working days to contest
the citations and proposed penalties before the
independent Occupational Safety and Health Review
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED PENALTIES AND ALLEGED VIOLATIONS
AMERICAN ROCKWOOL, INC., NOLANVILLE, TEX.
Alleged Willful Violations
|Failure to train employees on permit-required confined space
program. Eleven instances at $63,000 per instance (the
maximum penalty of $70,000 per instance was reduced 10
percent for size of the establishment).
|Failure to post signs describing a permit-required confined space.
|Failure to provide a written confined space program.
|Total Proposed Penalties for Alleged Willful Violations
(Willful violations are those committed with an intentional
disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the
Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.)
Alleged Serious Violation
|Failure to provide training in hazard communication.
(A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a
substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could
result, and the employer knew or should have known of the
|Total of Proposed Penalties