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  • Writer's pictureJohn Larrimer

OSHA Investigates Chemical Plant After Fatal Accident

On April 4, a 61-year-old employee at Haverhill Chemicals, LLC suffered fatal injuries while clearing a blockage on a drain line that led to a reactor.

The drain line carried a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA), along with a combination of hydrochloric acid, acetone and phenol. The mixture is used to manufacture resins, flame-retardants and coatings.

Tragically, an expansion joint failed while the employee was clearing a blockage, and the thermally heated mixture spilled all over him. He later died from his injuries.

When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted a follow-up inspection, it discovered more than 20 additional health and safety violations. Most notably, OSHA discovered several violations of OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standards (PSM).

How Does OSHA Regulate Hazardous Chemicals?

PSM standards regulate how certain facilities handle hazardous chemicals. The rules and procedures help minimize worker exposure and prevent workplace accidents like the tragic incident at Haverhill.

Officials at the chemical plant failed to establish consistent, written procedures for maintaining equipment that processed hazardous chemicals. The facility also had no plans in place for emergency shutdowns of the BPA reactor, which could (and did) have catastrophic repercussions.

Unfortunately, the expansion joint failure that caused the tragic accident was also an example of poor management. The chemical manufacturer racked up additional citations for not addressing similar hazards sooner, and for not training its employees how to install the joints properly.

The infractions were enough to earn Haverhill a place in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, but it is still the company’s responsibility to make the necessary changes. Unfortunately, the upgrades did not come soon enough to save the life of the employee who died.

Employers are responsible for health and safety in the workplace, but it is often up to workers to demand change. For more information on workplace safety and your rights as an employee, follow Larrimer & Larrimer on Facebook or Twitter.

[Did You Know: BPA has been known to cause cancer, heart problems, brain and behavior issues and injuries to children.]

Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC—Columbus Workers Comp Attorneys

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