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OSHA News Release – Region 1
U.S. Department of Labor
Region 1 News Release: BOS 2001-116
Tuesday, July 24, 2001
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
OSHA CITES NORWELL, MASS., CONTRACTOR FOLLOWING PLYMOUTH, MASS., CHEMICAL FIRE WHICH HOSPITALIZED WORKERS
BOSTON - The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited W. J. Murphy Construction Company, Inc., of Norwell, Mass., for nine alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and proposed $23,800 in fines against the contractor following a February 5, 2001, chemical fire at a Plymouth, Mass., worksite which sent three workers and four firefighters to the hospital for evaluation and treatment.
The fire occurred during the demolition of a former computer diskette manufacturing plant at 40 Grissom Road in Plymouth. Murphy Construction employees were cutting pipes which formerly carried the flammable chemicals toluene, cyclohexanone and methyl ethyl ketone solvent, when residual amounts of the toluene and cyclohexanone contained in the pipes spilled onto the concrete floor and were ignited by sparks from the workers' cutting tools.
"OSHA's inspection found that Murphy Construction failed to purge, ventilate and test the pipes prior to cutting, did not instruct employees in the hazards associated with the chemicals and the pipe cutting, lacked written hazard communication information about the chemicals and failed to provide the workers with protective clothing and gloves, face shields and respiratory protection," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts.
"This employer should not have assumed that these pipes were devoid of flammable chemicals," said Gordon. "The proper procedure would have been to test and purge the pipes before cutting, as well as properly train workers to recognize and address the hazards posed by flammable chemicals. Proper training and preparation are key workplace safety elements; had they been provided, this incident might have been avoided."
The workers were also exposed to fire hazards stemming from failure to adequately train them in fire extinguisher use, unmaintained fire extinguishers and the lack of an effective written fire protection program. The inspection also identified fall hazards of more than 14 feet, electrocution hazards from the use of ungrounded power tools, tripping hazards from unguarded floor holes, and vehicular hazards from workers not being trained in the safe operation of forklifts.
W.J. Murphy Construction Company, Inc. has 15 working days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Gordon urged southeastern Massachusetts employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Braintree at 617-565-6924 and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline -- 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742) -- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
Additional information on OSHA standards may be found on the Internet at the agency's website: www.osha.gov.
OSHA defines a serious violation 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 hazard.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.
The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.
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