August 2, 2016 BOS 2016-122
Employer name: Rohm-Haas Electronics Material, LLC, doing business as Dow Chemical Co.
60 Willow St., North Andover, Massachusetts a manufacturer of specialty chemicals.
What prompted OSHA’s inspection: On Jan. 7, 2016, an explosion occurred as plant employees were engaged in the trimethyl aluminum cylinder reclamation process. The process involves purging the cylinders of residual amounts of trimethyl aluminum, a substance that can ignite spontaneously in air. Four employees were injured as a result of the explosion.
Investigation findings: An investigation by the Andover Area Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Rohm-Haas failed to adequately design, inspect, maintain and operate the process to prevent oxygen from making contacting with and igniting trimethyl aluminum. The plant also:
Lacked adequate precautions to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors during the process.
Did not empty a waste container of flammable liquids on a daily basis.
Did not protect the reclamation system against the probability of fire and explosion.
Stored flammable liquids improperly.
Lacked emergency drainage systems to direct flammable liquids or fire protection water to a safe location.
Stored propane cylinders close to an area where there was a high probability of fire or explosion.
Lacked aisles with adequate width to allow movement of fire protection equipment and personnel in an emergency.
In addition, Rohm-Haas failed to assess fully the workplace to determine hazards and appropriate personal protective equipment for employees. The company also did not provide and require the use of all necessary personal protective equipment. OSHA cited Rohm-Haas for similar hazards in 2014. Finally, the company did not record the employees’ injuries within seven days as required by OSHA’s recordkeeping standard.
As a result of these conditions, OSHA cited Rohm-Haas for eight serious, two repeat and one other than serious violations of workplace safety standards. OSHA will also be placing Rohm-Haas in its Severe Violators Enforcement Program. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.
Proposed penalties: $129,200
QUOTE: “Plant employees were needlessly exposed to fire and explosion hazards due to the deficiencies in the trimethyl aluminum reclamation process and other inadequate safeguards. While Rohm and Haas has indicated that it is no longer manufacturing or reclaiming such pyrophoric materials, this explosion and the injuries that resulted could and should have been prevented,” said Anthony Covello, OSHA’s area director for Middlesex and Essex counties.
Link to citations: Here.
Rohm-Haas has filed a notice of contest to its citations and penalties to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or OSHA’s Andover Area Office at 978-837-4460.