March 2, 2015 BOS 2015-038
Employees avert explosion, fire and other dangers after solvent spill
at freight terminal exposes employer's lack of readiness
R+L Carriers faces $86,900 in penalties for serious violations
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Employees at a Wallingford freight shipping terminal faced dangerous chemical, fire and explosion hazards on Oct. 6, 2014, as they tried to contain a highly flammable and explosive chemical spill without proper training and personal protective equipment, U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators have determined.
As a result of these conditions, OSHA found two repeated and four serious violations of workplace safety standards by R+L Carriers Shared Services LLC. The company faces $86,900 in proposed fines. The repeated violations stem from similar hazards cited by OSHA during a 2011 inspection of an R+L terminal in Chicago.
"These workers were essentially defenseless. They did not know how to evaluate the hazards involved, what personal protective equipment to use and what steps to follow to contain the spill safely. Worse, no one present at the terminal did," said Robert Kowalski, OSHA's area director in Bridgeport. "These deficiencies in emergency response* by R+L Carriers put its employees at risk of death or serious injury."
The investigation determined a forklift was being used to move a pallet of tetrahydrofuran, a highly flammable liquid with a flash point of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, from one truck to another when a 55-gallon drum containing the liquid was punctured accidentally. The chemical began leaking through the truck bed to the ground. R+L employees attempted to contain the spill with sorbent material beneath the truck and by cordoning off the area. OSHA investigators found that Wallingford terminal's management lacked an emergency response plan and had not trained employees as first responders.
Management also did not evaluate the hazards associated with tetrahydrofuran; failed to provide the responding employees with appropriate respiratory protection and personal protective equipment; and did not have a qualified person on-site to oversee the response. The terminal's emergency action plan also did not include procedures for timely reporting of emergency events. It was also noted that employees had not been briefed on updates to the plan. Finally, the forklift that punctured the drum was not operated properly.
A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A repeated violation exists when an employer has been cited previously for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.
R+L Carriers is a nationwide freight shipping company of 9,000 employees headquartered in Wilmington, Ohio; 45 work at the Wallingford terminal. R+L has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742), or the agency's Bridgeport Area Office at 203-579-5581.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/.
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Release Number: 15-245-BOS
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