When OSHA inspectors entered a New Jersey chemical facility Feb. 6 as part of the agency's national emphasis program for chemical facilities, they had no idea they’d find workers exposed to a substance capable of causing a host of hazards, from fire to liver damage.

"Our inspectors focused on vinylidene fluoride, a liquified flammable gas manufactured and used at Solvay Specialty Polymers' chemical facility,” said Paula Dixon-Roderick, director of OSHA's Marlton Area Office. “This gas poses serious safety and health risks to this company's employees, including fire and explosion hazards, frostbite, skin and lung irritation, and liver damage associated with chronic exposures.”

The OSHA enforcement officers found multiple violations of federal process safety management regulations at Solvay Speciality Polymers USA LLC, including not developing set written procedures for maintaining process equipment, which resulted in repeat violations.

Among the three repeat and eight serious safety violations issued to the company:

  • Having incomplete process safety information for equipment in the process.
  • Failing to review operating procedures to comply with current operating practice.
  • Failing to inspect and test process equipment.
  • Failing to follow established procedures to manage changes to process chemicals, technology, equipment, and/or facilities.
  • Failing to respond properly to a compliance audit.

Proposed penalties: $115,000