November 28, 2012

MFG cited for 20 safety violations, fined $77,000

Dalton company disputes findings

Rachel Brown

— A Dalton chemical manufacturing company has been fined $77,000 and cited for 20 safety violations for what Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigators found after a chemical release there in May sent 43 people to the hospital for decontamination.

OSHA officials in a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor announced the proposed penalties for MFG Chemical Inc. after the investigation into an “explosion... caused by a runaway reaction from an overheated reactor.” The incident blew a pressure release disk on a container of the chemical Coagulant 129 through a wall at a nearby Beaulieu of America plant. No injuries were reported.

“This inspection has identified a wide range of safety hazards that need to be addressed in order to protect workers,” Andre Richards, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-West Area Office, said in a press release. “It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace.”

Charles E. “Chuck” Gavin IV, president and CEO of MFG, said the company “is and always has been a company that is vitally concerned with the safety of its employees.”

“We are not in agreement with the findings and will be meeting to discuss these very soon,” he said. “The incident was not an explosion, but an over-pressurization of the equipment and fortunately there were no injuries or environmental issues. The majority of all findings have been corrected.”

The company has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with an OSHA area director or contest the findings before a review commission.

Dalton firefighters initially reported Coagulant 129 — a yellow liquid used in water treatment — flowed 1,000 to 1,300 feet into the street at the company’s Callahan Road site when the incident occurred.

“The product is non-hazardous and environmentally benign,” Gavin said.

He said MFG has been certified through an environmental health, safety and security management program since 2008. The program requires manufacturing facilities to be verified by a third party, he said. MFG Chemical manufactures a range of specialty chemicals for the water treatment, agriculture, pulp and paper industries, according to OSHA.

An OSHA spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a message asking for more details on the kinds of violations MFG was cited for, but the press release states 19 of the 20 infractions were “serious violations.”

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,” according to the release.

The release states the violations include:

• Exposing workers to fire and explosion hazards while they performed manufacturing duties, as well as failing to ensure that initial process hazard analyses were conducted.

• Develop operational procedures that are safe, accurate and concise, and which include operating parameters such as emergency shutdown.

• Provide training and implement safe work practices for contracted workers performing maintenance in a PSM-covered (Process Safety Management) area.

• Develop and implement a written mechanical integrity program for workers required to perform maintenance on and repair process equipment.

• Develop emergency response procedures that include handling small chemical releases.

• Identify permit-required confined spaces such as reactors, receivers and mixers, among others.

• Ensure confined space permits were issued and documented prior to allowing workers to enter the spaces.

• Ensure that eyewash/shower facilities were available and accessible for workers exposed to chemical burns.

• Mount and identify the placement of portable fire extinguishers; and establish a preferred way of communicating an emergency evacuation.