Tonawanda Coke Blast Case Settled

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 @ 04:09 PM gHale

Tonawanda Coke Corp. reached an $115,370 settlement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) over safety violations at its River Road plant in Tonawanda, NY, in the wake of a January explosion.

The fines are a 28 percent reduction of earlier penalties.

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The company agreed to the settlement during an informal conference with OSHA, said Michael T. Scime, OSHA’s Buffalo area director. Tonawanda Coke has either corrected or is on its way to fixing the safety problems the agency identified, he said.

“This is a good settlement for us,” Scime said. “It affirms all the violations and we get corrective action on all the items.”

OSHA in late July sad Tonawanda Coke faced potential fines of $161,100 for 17 safety violations. The settlement lowered the total fine, but Scime said the portion of the fine related to the Jan. 31 explosion that injured three workers did not reduce.

A Tonawanda Coke spokesman did not return a call to comment about the settlement. The settlement’s terms also apply to Kirchner LLC, which provides temporary workers and received the same citations.

OSHA criticized Tonawanda Coke in July for failing to take proper precautions and ensuring its safety systems were working, as well as “additional, preventable hazards” it said it found at the Tonawanda plant.

OSHA accused the company of allowing conditions at the plant that exposed workers to potential falls, injuries and amputations from unexpectedly activated machinery and an inability to exit the plant swiftly in an emergency.

The explosion injured two permanent employees of the plant and one temporary employee, and collapsed brick walls and damaged electrical equipment. OSHA said that an overpressured coke oven manifold released coke oven gas in an enclosed area, where it ignited.

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