Big Safety Fines for Chemical Maker

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 @ 04:06 PM gHale

Fontarome Chemical Inc. is facing $449,680 in fines for 23 safety and health violations, including seven willful, one repeat and 15 serious at its St. Francis, WI, facility, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In addition to the fines, OSHA placed the company on its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

“It is clear that Fontarome Chemical continued to fail in its obligation to create a safe working environment for employees managing highly hazardous chemicals,” said Chris Zortman, OSHA’s area director in Milwaukee. “OSHA is committed to ensuring conditions are improved at the plant and that all cited safety violations have been corrected by the current company management.”

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OSHA initiated an inspection in December after the company failed to fix hazards following an April 2012 fire at the pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, which uses the chemical thionyl chloride. Exposure to thionyl chloride, often used to produce ingredients for pharmaceuticals and the flavor and fragrance industries, can cause serious eye, skin and respiratory issues.

Since OSHA initiated the inspection, the company sold to another firm. In April 2014, SFM Investments LLC became the primary owners of the company, now operating as Apiscent Labs.

Five of the willful violations involve OSHA’s process safety management regulations, which contain specific requirements for protecting workers from highly hazardous chemicals. The violations involve failing to establish safe operating procedures, develop safety information for equipment, correct problems and perform tests and inspections in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation and other recognized and accepted good practices.

The other two willful violations involve failing to provide specific procedures to protect workers from dangerous machines during maintenance, to provide ventilation for emissions, and to remove and replace temporary wiring installed during the fire restoration project. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

The company also faces one repeat violation for not properly fitting employees required to wear full and half-face, air-purifying respirators. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously faced citations for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Fontarome Chemicals previously received a citation for this violation in October 2012. Since 2009, the company has undergone OSHA inspections four times, resulting in 24 violations.

Fontarome Chemical is also facing 15 serious violations for process safety management regulations; forklift training; storage and availability of fire extinguishers; training employees on the proper use of personal protective equipment to avoid skin and respiratory tract contact with chemical irritants; obstructed exit routes; and violations of lockout/tagout procedures to isolate energy.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

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