Safety Fines for Tank Manufacturer

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 @ 02:03 PM gHale

Niece Products of Kansas is facing $60,200 in fines for 15 serious safety and health citations, including one for failing to implement a respiratory protection program for workers in confined spaces at its Fort Scott, KS, facility, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

As it turns out, workers welding inside steel tanks suffered exposure to toxic fumes because their employer lacked an effective program to protect them, OSHA officials said.

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“Welding inside a confined space, such as a tank, can expose employees to toxic fumes with immediate health impacts,” said Judy Freeman, OSHA’s area director in Wichita. “Employers are required and must take specific measures to protect workers in these environments.”

OSHA found Niece Products did not evaluate employee exposure to respiratory hazards associated with welding inside tanks and lacked a written respiratory protection program. Initiated by a complaint, the October inspection also found electrical hazards and a paint booth where the company stored flammable materials and no sprinkler system existed.

A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, such as a holding tank, but it has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and not designed for continuous occupancy.

OSHA investigators found numerous violations in the corrugated metal paint booth, including using a paint shaker, which can produce sparks; electrical equipment not rated for exposure to flammable materials; improper storage of flammable materials; and failing to display no smoking signs.

The inspection also found fans and pulleys lacked adequate mechanisms to prevent workers from coming in contact with operating parts.

An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

Based in Fort Scott, Niece Products employs 40 people who manufacture, sell and lease water and fuel trucks, and water towers used in the construction industry. The company’s owner is Niece Equipment in Irving, Texas, and employs 100 workers corporate-wide.

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