Worker Deaths bring Safety Fines

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 @ 04:11 PM gHale

Mississippi Phosphates Corp. is facing $165,900 in fines for 40 safety and health violations following the deaths of two workers in separate incidents at the company’s Pascagoula, MS, facilities, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

An operator attempting to start up a steam turbine in sulfuric acid plant No. 2 ended up hit May 22 by flying metal debris when the turbine housing ruptured due to apparent overpressurization. In a similar incident on June 1, an operator restarting a tripped steam turbine in sulfuric acid plant No. 3 also died after flying metal debris struck him when the turbine housing ruptured due to overpressurization.

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Mississippi Phosphates is a producer and marketer of diammonium phosphate, which is a fertilizer. The company’s manufacturing facilities consist of two sulfuric acid plants, a phosphoric acid plant and diammonium phosphate granulation plant.

OSHA cited the company for three serious safety violations related to the fatalities, including exposing workers to “struck-by” hazards by not protecting them against overpressurization, and failing to maintain and service equipment in accordance with the company’s maintenance program to prevent overpressurization.

An additional 23 serious safety violations involve failing to test and inspect pressure relief devices throughout the facility, provide handrails on fixed stairways, guard floor holes that could cause workers to trip and fall, provide fixed stairs to access tank gauging, address engineering controls during a process hazard analysis, and guard belt roller nip points, horizontal shafts, rotating shafts and horizontal V-belts. The violations also include various electrical hazards such as exposing workers to shocks, missing panel knockouts, broken face plates, unguarded light bulbs and an open ground in an outlet circuit.

Ten serious health violations involve failing to conduct an initial process hazard analysis, update the process hazard analysis every five years, conduct compliance audits for process safety management and determine the presence of asbestos prior to working on equipment, as well as to label hazardous substances such as caustic soda, acid and petroleum products used throughout the facility. 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.

There was also one repeat health violation for a lack of housekeeping. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously received a citation cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. There was a similar violation in May 2009.

Three other-than-serious safety violations are failing to mount a fire extinguisher so it is readily available, not labeling circuit breakers, and using flexible cords and equipment cables that do not have strain relief. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

“Employers need to be proactive to ensure that all operating equipment is properly maintained and functional,” said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA’s Jackson Area Office. “Had this employer done so, these tragic events could have been prevented.”

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