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OSHA: Workers Exposed to 14 Hazards

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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Federal authorities have cited a supplier of chemicals used in paints and coatings, alleging 14 serious violations, stemming from a complaint investigation launched last October.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Kansas City, KS-based Harcros Chemicals Inc. was found to be in violation of the administration’s process safety management procedures.

The company was said to have been exposing employees to “release of extremely flammable vapors to atmosphere that historically result in fire/explosion hazards leading to injury and death to persons in the workplace,” according to OSHA.

Can of paint
© iStock.com / ThitareeSarmkasat

Harcros' products include polymers and antifoaming agents used in paints.

Proposed fines levied against company total $80,000. Penalties are subject to change depending on whether the company chooses to informally discuss the violations with OSHA or contest the citation formally.

The inspection that resulted in the citation took place at Harcros’ ethylene oxide plant in Kansas City. The alleged violations largely deal with the company’s work with ethylene oxide and propylene oxide.

OSHA claims that the company in some cases failed to create and record safety procedures, and in other cases failed to follow through with procedures that were on the books. The citation also alleges that Harcros failed to implement a proper emergency response plan.

Lack of Safety Procedures

The new citation, issued April 19, includes allegations that Harcros did not keep written safety procedures that adequately addressed the hazards present at the site, and outlines 35 specific ways in which the company’s piping and instrument diagrams did not match the actual equipment at the site on the day of inspection.

The citation also lists 18 pieces of equipment, including piping and ethylene and propylene oxide coolers, that had not received proper inspections.

"When highly hazardous chemicals are not properly controlled there is a potential for unintentional release which could result in serious health and safety implications for workers and the neighboring community," said Judy Freeman, OSHA's acting area director in Wichita. "Companies like Harcros that manufacture chemicals must thoroughly train workers and monitor procedures used in the process for needed changes.”

Water treatment plant
© iStock.com / John_Kasawa

Harcros produces antifoaming agents used in industrial water treatment.

The OSHA citation gives the company until June 2 to remedy the violations.

About the Company

According to the company’s website, Harcros is a manufacturer and distributor of a wide variety of chemicals, including polymer solutions, silicates and zinc anodes. Its brands used in coating formulation include its H series of antifoaming agents (used in both coatings and industrial water treatment), and Harcryl, a line of phosphated or boronated acrlic monomers.

Its corporate headquarters and main plant are in Kansas City, though it operates distribution facilities throughout eastern half of the U.S.

Harcros was founded in 1917 as Thompson, Munro, and Robins; it became Harcros Chemicals in 1988. In 2014, Harcros became a fully employee-owned company.

Harcros also owns Harcros (India) LLC, a subsidiary company that recently acquired a majority share in India’s The Venus Group.

Other Citations Contested

Harcros is currently contesting two other serious citations issued by OSHA in March, related to requirements regarding safety equipment for employees and safety guards on plant machinery. Those violations would result in $14,000 in fines if upheld.

In those March violations, OSHA alleges that last September, an employee cleaning a tank at the plant was exposed to burn hazards due to broken latches on the tank’s lid and a lack of proper safety equipment.

OSHA defines a “serious” violation as a situation in which “the workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm, unless the employer did not know or could not have known of the violation.”

$1.5M Waste Violation

In September 2014, Harcros reached a plea agreement with the Department of Justice in relation to a violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The company was found to have been storing hazardous waste at its Kansas City plant for a period longer than permitted.

At that time, Harcros said in a statement: "Shortly after a 2008 regulatory inspection, the chemicals were properly disposed off-site. None of the chemicals at issue were released into the environment, nor were any employees at risk."

Harcros was fined $1.5 million for that violation, and was placed on a two-year federal probation.

A request for comment from Harcros on the new OSHA violations, sent Tuesday (April 26) was unanswered as of the filing deadline for this story.

Read the OSHA citation here.


Tagged categories: Construction chemicals; Health and safety; OSHA; Violations

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