Chlorine Gas Exposure Sickens Worker

Friday, February 28, 2014 @ 12:02 PM gHale

Beck Aluminum Alloys Ltd., which operates Beck Aluminum Racine, is facing $77,472 in fines for 13 serious violations at its Racine, WI, aluminum plant, said officials at Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA inspected the Racine aluminum plant in September 2013 after receiving a referral that a worker ended up sickened by exposure to hazardous chlorine gas while changing cylinders. The inspection also found company officials did not remove other workers from the area after they knew about the exposure to the gas and failed to evaluate the danger to life and health.

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“Employers have a responsibility to provide workers with proper training and to implement procedures that protect employees from chemical hazards in the workplace,” said Christine Zortman, OSHA’s area director in Milwaukee. “It’s unacceptable that Beck Aluminum Racine failed to develop safety procedures to prevent the release of chlorine gas during maintenance. When a release of chlorine gas occurred, the company failed to remove employees immediately from potential exposure. 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 faces citations 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.

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.

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

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