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Wisc. worker made ill by chlorine gas exposure

After danger was known, company didn’t move other workers out of area

ambulanceAn aluminum plant worker sickened by hazardous chlorine gas while changing cylinders brought OSHA inspectors to Beck Aluminum Alloys Ltd., which operates Beck Aluminum Racine, for a close look at the company’s Racine, Wisc. plant.

One of their findings in that September, 2013 incident: that company officials did not remove other workers from the area after exposure to the gas was known. They also failed to evaluate the danger to life and health.

Beck Aluminum Alloys Ltd. has been cited for 13 serious violations, carrying proposed penalties of $77,472.

"It's unacceptable that Beck Aluminum Racine failed to develop safety procedures to prevent the release of chlorine gas during maintenance,” said Christine Zortman, OSHA's area director in Milwaukee.  Of the company’s failure to immediately remove employees from the area of potential exposure, Zortman said; “This can cause severe health issues related to the skin and the respiratory and central nervous systems. Exposure to high concentrations can result in death."

The company was cited for failing to establish lockout/tagout procedures to prevent the inadvertent release of chemical energy; an inability to estimate employee exposure during a chlorine release; failing to provide training to employees performing emergency response procedures; lack of annual inspections of energy control procedures; and stacking large totes of crushed aluminum casts in an unstable manner.

Six of the citations involve violations of OSHA's respiratory protection standards, such as not having a written respiratory protection program, failing to medically evaluate workers required to use a respirator and not providing adequate training.

Beck Aluminum Alloys Ltd. has headquarters in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, and employs about 115 workers nationwide. Beck Aluminum Racine employs about 40 workers.

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