The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Electronic Recycling and Trading Co. (ERT), an Austin, Texas, electronics recycler, with 14 serious violations after two workers were injured from a combustible dust explosion at the company's worksite in Austin. The agency proposed a $60,060 penalty.
"Employers must ensure their workplaces are evaluated for hazards and take corrective action before a dangerous incident such as this occurs," says Casey Perkins, OSHA area director in Austin. "Combustible dust hazards can be controlled by implementing multiple safeguards, such as installing proper exhaust ventilation systems."
An inspection began Jan. 10, 2012, after an explosion at the company's facility. Workers were sorting materials on the output conveyor when combustible dust generated by a nearby ring mill pulverizing machine caused an explosion that sent two workers to the hospital with severe burns.
According to OSHA, the safety inspection violations include failing to provide approved and adequate dust collection and fire suppression systems for the ring mill; training for, and certification of, forklift operators; specific lockout/tagout and confined space entry procedures; and adequate housekeeping for the control of combustible dust accumulations.
Health violations found at the recycling facility included failure to implement a hearing conservation program; failure to ensure work surfaces were free of lead deposits; and failure to implement a respiratory protection program, OSHA reports.
In a statement, ERT says that after the explosion, all of its workers were quick to follow the company’s emergency training and procedures, evacuating the building and meeting at their assigned evacuation rallying points. Two temporary employees of ERT were hurt, though neither sustained serious or life-threatening injuries and have since recovered, the company adds.
ERT says it complied with OSHA’s investigation and worked closely with the agency to o make its workplace safer.
“Our primary concern is our employees and for anyone who enters our facility,” says Ken Jaross, president of ERT. “That is why we take all of our health and safety policies seriously. It is the top priority for our business. After the accident, we took immediate action to correct items that may have been in violation and to ensure our workplace is as safe as possible. ERT was safely operating within two weeks of the accident and has had no incident since then.”
In regard to the proposed fine, ERT says it has made most of the changes the agency called for. The company says it will continue to hold conversations with OSHA and work with the agency.