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$58,800 in fines proposed against Supercon, Inc.
OSHA CITES SHREWSBURY, MASS., MANUFACTURER FOR ALLEGED CONFINED SPACE HAZARDS FOLLOWING WORKER'S DEATH BY ASPHYXIATION
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Supercon, Inc., a manufacturer of non-ferrous wiring located at 830 Boston Turnpike in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, for twenty-one alleged Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following the death of a worker and has proposed penalties against the company totaling $58,800.
According to Ronald E. Morin, OSHA area director for central and western Massachusetts, the alleged violations chiefly concern the company's failure to identify toxic or oxygen-deficient confined spaces in the workplace and then implement means, procedures and practices to protect workers whose duties require entry into those confined spaces.
On August 15, 2000, a Supercon employee who entered a furnace's heat treatment chamber to remove a metal coil died of suffocation after being overcome by the lack of oxygen within the chamber. Morin explained that the chamber, which was 66" deep and 48" in diameter, was a permit required confined space, meaning one with limited or restricted means of entry, large enough for an employee to enter, not designed for continuous occupancy, and having the potential for a toxic and/or oxygen deficient atmosphere.
"OSHA standards mandate that employers develop and implement a detailed program that addresses all steps the employer must take to safeguard workers whose duties require them to enter such spaces, including a stringent permit system that tightly controls and regulates the entry rocess," said Morin. "Unfortunately, several of the required safeguards were absent or lacking in this case."
Morin said that, in addition to failing to identify the heat treatment chamber as a permit required confined space, the company did not evaluate it for confined space hazards nor test it for acceptable entry conditions before worker entry, did not implement a permit system to safely regulate entry, did not train workers in confined space hazards nor supply them with required ventilating, testing, monitoring or rescue equipment, did not designate an attendant to oversee the entry process, did not lock out the furnace's energy sources, failed to have an entry permit prepared prior to the entry, and failed to identify and label all such confined spaces in the workplace and take adequate steps to prevent unauthorized entry into those spaces.
"In addition, rescue procedures had not been developed and implemented and rescue personnel were not informed of the oxygen-deficiency hazard posed by the furnace," he said. "This last condition also placed rescue personnel at risk because they did not know the chamber lacked sufficient oxygen."
Morin noted that the inspection also identified other hazards, including unguarded floor holes, failure to have emergency eyewashes immediately available for use, and failure to provide employees with information and training to detect and address asphyxiation hazards posed by argon and nitrogen gasses used in the heat treatment process.
Morin urged Worcester County employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Springfield at 413-785-0123 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.
He also emphasized that OSHA's Internet website contains a Technical Assistance site for Confined Space hazards that includes detailed information and links on the recognition, evaluation and control of confined space hazards and complying with the requirements of OSHA's confined space standard. That site may be accessed at www.osha-slc.gov/SLTC/confinedspaces/index.html.
A serious violation is defined by OSHA 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.
The company has 15 working days from receipt of the 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. 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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