Region 4 News Release: USDOL: 01-122
Tues., July 24, 2001
Contact: Lana Graves
Phone: (334) 441-6131
OSHA CITES ALABAMA PLANT FOR SAFETY VIOLATIONS; PROPOSES $263,500 IN PENALTIES.
MOUNDVILLE, Ala. -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today concurrently issued citations and signed a settlement agreement with Lawter International, Inc. The employer agreed to accept 20 unclassified violations of OSHA standards with assessed fines totaling $263,500.
The settlement follows an OSHA inspection of Lawter International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eastman Chemical Company, which began Jan. 24 after a complaint from a contract employee that he was exposed to releases of hazardous boron trifluoride (BF3) while working in the Moundville hydrocarbon plant.
OSHA's inspection confirmed that employees were being exposed to BF3 releases at a scrubber for aging tanks, a problem which dated back to 1998. Employees were also exposed to BF3 releases at other locations throughout the plant. Other violations of OSHA's standard for process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals included failure to follow procedures required for chemical process changes -- in this case, when the company added a piece of equipment to the hydrocarbon process -- and failure to make necessary corrections noted during a 1995 process hazard analysis and an internal process safety management audit conducted in 1998.
The inspection also found that employees engaged in emergency response had not received mandatory training for response to hazardous waste spills, and there was no program for handling small releases of hazardous waste. In addition, workers were not provided proper respiratory protection when working in areas where they could be exposed to BF3, or for emergency escape from releases hazardous waste.
"This employer allowed hazardous conditions to go uncorrected and BF3 releases to persist," said Lana Graves, OSHA's Mobile area director. "Following our inspection, however, we were able to work with Lawter and Eastman Chemicals to identify ways to enhance the company's safety and health programs. Management's commitment extended beyond abatement of the noted hazards to a genuine effort to address employee concerns."
As part of the settlement, Lawter agreed to:
- form a joint management/union training and education committee to perform task analysis of each job at the plant to determine skills needed;
- provide each employee with at least 24 hours of on and off-site task-based training annually;
- establish a continuing education program to assist employees in developing and meeting training needs;
- work with the Moundville Volunteer Fire Department and the Tuscaloosa Fire Department to provide an integrated and effective response to plant emergencies;
- participate in a focus group with OSHA's Mobile area office to exchange information and experiences related to process safety management;
- provide OSHA's Mobile office with quarterly reports of chemical releases requiring an incident investigation;
- require supervisory personnel for all resident contractors to complete a minimum of 30 hours of OSHA-related safety and health training and all employees of other outside contractors to complete a minimum of 10 hours of such training;
- establish a Community Action Panel to address public concerns and provide information about chemical processes at the plant.
OSHA also cited two contractors working on-site during the plant inspection and fined each $12,600. Pelham-Ala.-based Gulf States, Inc., is Lawter's resident contractor for process equipment additions and repairs, and was working on plant expansion at the time of OSHA's inspection. Another contractor, BE&K Engineering of Birmingham, was upgrading piping and instrumentation diagrams for the site. Both contractors were cited for two serious safety violations: not training employees for potential chemical hazards in the workplace and not providing appropriate respirators.
Lawter International, based in Pleasant Prairie, Wisc., employs about 70 workers at its two Moundville plants -- the Hydrocarbon plant and the Krumbhaar plant -- to manufacture chemicals used in making inks and the coatings that enhance their performance. OSHA has inspected the company numerous times with resulting serious, willful and repeat citations and failure to abate notices.
Inspection of the plant was conducted by OSHA's area office located at 3737 Government Boulevard, Suite 100, Mobile, Ala., 36693-4309; phone: (334) 441-6131.