News | June 15, 1999

Fatal Fire Results in OSHA Citations

An OSHA investigation initiated Dec. 5, 1998, at Koppers Industries Inc., Clairton, PA, following a fire that caused the deaths of two workers has led to citations and penalties totaling $273,500.

The employees were working in an aerial lift using a welding/cutting torch when flammable material, which seeped out of a pipe, was ignited by the cutting torch and resulted in the fatalities. Additionally, it was discovered that asbestos removal had been performed in the area of the accident, and proper procedures had not been followed. Koppers produces organic light oils including benzene, toluene, and xylene, and employs 71 workers at this site.

According to Robert Szymanski, area director of the Pittsburgh OSHA office, five willful citations with a proposed penalty of $260,000, along with five serious citations with a proposed penalty of $13,500, has been issued to the company. The company has 15 days to contest the citations. "The nature of these violations indicates the company's disregard for employee safety and health at this facility," said Szymanski.

The willful violations include: performing hot work on pipes containing flammable materials without cleaning, purging, or testing prior to welding; failure to provide a competent person to recognize and correct hazards; failure to make a negative asbestos exposure assessment; exposing employees to asbestos above the permissible exposure limit; failure to have a competent person supervise asbestos work; failure to have a competent person perform inspections for all shifts for Class 1 asbestos work; and having an untrained person perform Class 1 asbestos work.

The five serious violations include: the improper storage of oxygen and acetylene; failure to establish a regulated area for asbestos work; failure to post warning signs where asbestos work was being performed; failure to perform daily asbestos monitoring or have a competent person perform exposure assessments; not using wet methods when performing asbestos work; and failure to use adequate personal protective equipment.