Chlorine gas leak at Mass. metals refiner leads to $46,500 penalty by OSHA for process safety management violations (5/6
OSHA's inspection found deficiencies in the plant's process safety management (PSM) program, a detailed set of requirements and procedures employers must follow to proactively assess and address hazards associated with processes and equipment that use large amounts of hazardous chemicals. In this case, the process involved the use of chlorine gas to purify precious metals.
"The consequences of a leak or other incident involving large amounts of chlorine can be severe and catastrophic," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for southeastern Massachusetts. "That's why it is vitally important that each element of the process be rigorously, completely and continuously scrutinized and adjusted to minimize hazards and enhance the workers' safety and health."
Specifically, the company had not compiled information on the chemicals, technology and equipment used in the purifying process; performed an initial process hazard analysis; developed and implemented written procedures covering the process, its ongoing integrity and any changes to it; audited the process at least once every three years; and obtained and evaluated the safety and health programs of outside contractors working in the plant, according to OSHA. The company also failed to post a sign identifying a confined space, according to the agency.
These conditions resulted in the issuance of the 10 serious citations. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Boston South Area Office in Braintree, telephone 617-565-6924.