OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
News Release USDL: 97-204
Wednesday, June 18, 1997
Contact: Frank Kane, (202) 219-8151
Houston Company Agrees To Pay $1.8 Million; Safety To Improve In Five Facilities Following OSHA Investigation Of Fatal Accident
Wyman-Gordon Forgings, Inc., has agreed to pay $1,803,500 in penalties proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following an investigation of a catastrophic accident at its Houston, Texas, facility that killed eight workers and injured two others. The company and its affiliate, Wyman-Gordon Company, Inc., also agreed to make significant safety improvements at five plants nationwide.
"The terrible tragedy that occurred just before Christmas serves as a reminder to all of us how important safety and health programs are," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "The company not only lost valuable workers, but more importantly eight families lost their loved ones in a senseless accident that could and should have been prevented. We must insist that safety and health be as important to a company as earnings and market share."
Wyman-Gordon Forgings, Inc., manufactures technologically advanced forgings, investment castings, and composite air frame structures and is a major supplier to the aircraft/aerospace industry. It has 865 employees at the Houston forgings plant, also known as the "Cypress facility. "
The catastrophic accident occurred Dec. 22, 1996, when employees were performing maintenance work that required lockout/tagout of a large hydraulic press and related equipment. (Lockout/tagout calls for turning off equipment during servicing and maintenance work and locking or tagging the energy sources so it cannot be restarted until the lock or tag is removed by the person who attached it to the system or by a supervisor and all stored energy is released before work begins.) Full implementation of a lockout/tagout program would have significantly reduced the probability of an unexpected release of stored energy in the equipment. There was no specific lockout/tagout procedure in place for this maintenance operation.
At the time of the accident, Wyman-Gordon Forgings workers were replacing seals on pressurized vessels containing nitrogen pressurized at 5,000 pounds per square inch. An unexpected release of the pressurized nitrogen occurred at a vessel, killing four production and four maintenance workers and injuring a production worker and the maintenance supervisor. Some of the workers who died had only been on the job a few weeks. The force of the released pressurized nitrogen was so great that it propelled a 3,000-pound valve assembly more than 200 yards, where it dug into the ground more than five feet.
"Wyman-Gordon Forgings has agreed to resolve this matter as quickly as possible and to eliminate the safety deficiencies that led to this tragic accident--both in Houston and in another facility in Brighton, Michigan," said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Gregory R. Watchman, who announced the agreement at a news conference in Houston following a meeting with families of the victims. Watchman also noted that "the settlement avoids the burdens of possible prolonged litigation and furthers the efforts of both the company and OSHA to provide safe workplaces."
Wyman-Gordon Company agreed to apply the same terms in the settlement agreement to other forging facilities in North Grafton, Mass.; Worcester, Mass.; and Millbury, Mass.
Under the terms of the settlement, Wyman-Gordon Forgings agreed to establish an effective safety and health program in its Houston and Brighton facilities. The company will provide a written affirmation of management commitment to and supervisory responsibility for workplace safety and health goals; sufficient resources for the effort, including a full-time certified safety and health professional at the Houston facility; employee training and additional measures to ensure employee participation in safety and health issues; comprehensive safety and health audits at each of the facilities; and a comprehensive, ongoing energy control program in full compliance with OSHA's lockout/tagout standard.
OSHA is issuing the penalties and citations today. Wyman-Gordon Forgings has agreed not to contest the citations.
Wyman-Gordon Company, Inc., with headquarters in North Grafton, Mass., has more than 3,000 employees worldwide in 11 plants.
(Editor's note: A summary of the citations is attached.)
SUMMARY OF CITATIONS
Wyman-Gordon Forgings, Inc.
Failure to provide training to ensure that the purpose and function of the energy control program (lockout/tagout) are understood by employees authorized to do maintenance and that the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, use, and removal of the energy controls are acquired by the employees, as required by the lockout/tagout standard.
Failure to provide retraining for other authorized and affected employees when there was a change in their job assignments, machines, equipment or processes that presented a new hazard, or when there was a change in the energy control procedures, as required by the lockout/tagout standard.
Failure to have lockout and tagout procedures that clearly and specifically outlined the scope, purpose, authorization, rules and techniques to be utilized for the hazardous energy, and means to enforce compliance, as required by the lockout/tagout standard.
Failure to conduct a periodic inspection of the energy control procedure at least annually to ensure that the procedure and the requirements of the lockout/tagout standard were being followed.
Failure to lock out hydraulic pumps and power apparatus when maintenance was being performed on the hydraulic forging press, as required by the lockout/tagout standard and the forging standard.
Failure to provide training to ensure that the purpose and function of the energy control program (lockout/tagout) are understood by employees working in the area or affected by the maintenance operation and that the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, use, and removal of the energy controls are acquired by the employees, as required by the lockout/tagout standard.
Employer failed to meet requirement of Section 5(a)(1), the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Employees were exposed to the hazards of an unexpected release of nitrogen at 5,000 psi or greater pressures. The employer failed to insure that pressure vessels were not isolated from the pressure gauge. The employer also had the pressure relief valves set too high and the pressure relief valves discharged in employee work areas.
Failure to train production employees in emergency evacuation procedures.
Failure to ensure the adequacy of employee-owned protective equipment.
Failure to post warnings about the existence, location and danger of permit-required confined spaces.
Failure to train members of the rescue service about the equipment necessary to rescue persons from confined spaces.
Failure to train employees assigned to the rescue service about their duties in rescuing persons from confined spaces.
Failure to provide hardware necessary to isolate, secure or block machines from hazardous energy sources.
Failure to meet requirements for filling out the log and summary of occupational injuries (OSHA Form 200 or its equivalent) and for providing supplementary records for each occupational injury or illness in detail (OSHA form 101).
|TOTAL OF PROPOSED PENALTIES||$1,803,500|
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