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News Release 98-367
Friday, September 18, 1998
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151


American Rockwool, Inc., is agreeing to extensive safety and health improvements at its two plants, including the one at Nolanville, Tex., where six employees were made ill by potentially lethal carbon monoxide gas, and to pay the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) $412,300 in penalties, OSHA announced today.

OSHA cited the company on Sept. 11, 1997, at Nolanville for willful violations of the confined spaces standard and a serious violation of the hazard communication standard. OSHA initially proposed penalties totaling $824,600 but agreed to reductions based on the company's agreement to improve safety and health.

"This agreement includes important provisions to protect the safety and health of Rockwool employees," Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman said. "Following the OSHA confined spaces standard would have prevented exposing employees to deadly gases. All workers need the assurance that they are working in safe and healthful conditions."

American Rockwool, one of 10 leading manufacturers of commercial and residential insulation, employs 92 workers 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 60 employees.

"This agreement avoids the burden and cost of prolonged litigation and also furthers the efforts of American Rockwool and OSHA to provide a safe workplace," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Charles N. Jeffress.

At Nolanville, the firm uses cupola furnaces in manufacturing rock wool insulation. On March 13, 1997, six employees were sickened by carbon monoxide gases while either doing maintenance work in a cupola or during rescue attempts. The fire department rescued two of them.

OSHA cited the firm for 11 willful violations (one for each of 11 employees who had been exposed to the gases) for lack of employee training on entering permit-required confined spaces; two willful violations for failing to have a permit-required confined space program and failing to post danger signs; and one serious violation for lack of training in hazard communication.

OSHA's standard on permit-required confined spaces outlines practices and procedures to protect workers from the dangers of lack of oxygen or toxic atmospheres when they enter a confined space such as the furnace cupola.

Under the settlement agreement the company will:

  • Implement a comprehensive, ongoing confined space program in all its corporate facilities which have confined spaces subject to the OSHA standard by Oct. 31.

  • Provide training in confined space policies and procedures for all employees whose work is regulated by the OSHA standard by Oct. 31 and maintain records of the training;

  • Communicate with employees about its compliance activities under the confined space standards and the terms of the settlement agreement.

  • Conduct a comprehensive safety and health audit by an independent professional in the Nolanville plant in order to identify and eliminate occupational safety and health hazards. The professional is to be approved by OSHA and the audit is to be completed by Dec. 31. The company will then have 60 days to correct any deficiencies found by the audit.

  • Follow the principles of OSHA's Voluntary Guidelines for Safety and Health Program Management. This includes affirming the fundamental importance of safety and health protection for every Rockwool employee; establishing safety and health goals and objectives; holding managers and supervisors accountable for achieving those objectives; and committing sufficient resources and safety and health personnel to conduct annual safety and health program reviews and periodic worksite inspections for hazards at the Nolanville facility.

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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