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OSHA News Release – Region 4
U.S. Department of Labor
Region 4 News Release ATL: 02-220
Mon., Nov. 18, 2002
Contact: Lorette Post - Clyde Payne
Phone: (404)562-2078 - (601)965-4606 ext 0
Vicksburg, Miss., Rubber Manufacturer
VICKSBURG, Miss. -- The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Rouse Polymerics International, Inc. for safety hazards that led to a fatal explosion at the company's Vicksburg plant. Fines totaling $210,600 were proposed in connection with the citations.
OSHA's inspection of the rubber fabricating plant was triggered by a May 16 explosion, which injured 11 workers, five of whom later died of severe burns. The explosion occurred when highly combustible rubber dust, that had been allowed to accumulate, ignited.
Following the inspection, OSHA cited the company for two willful and 22 serious safety violations. The willful citations addressed the company's failure to keep the plant free from hazardous accumulation of rubber dust and to use electrical equipment specifically approved for work areas where high fire risk is present.
"The combination of a combustible dust heated to its ignition temperature in the presence of an oxygen-enriched environment is an obvious indicator for potential hazards," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's Jackson, Miss., area director. "This employer had been previously cited for housekeeping and electrical violations, both of which contributed to the explosion. Yet, management continued to expose workers to both hazards."
Cited serious violations included employing a forklift without a seat belt; exposing workers to fire and explosion hazards without proper protection systems in place; lack of guardrails; allowing employees to work from an aerial lift without proper protective equipment; gears left unguarded; electrical hazards and training deficiencies.
Rouse Polymerics International employs a series of "shredding" and "cracking" operations to vulcanize rubber material for use by major tire manufacturers, asphalt formulators and other rubber manufacturers. The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Inspection of the Vicksburg facility was conducted by OSHA's Jackson area office, which can be reached at (601) 965-4606.
U.S. Labor Department news releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this release will be made available in alternative format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202-693-7773 or TTY 202-693-7755.
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