OSHA fines Wisconsin aluminum smelter for safety violations

Beck Aluminum Alloys may be subject to $77,472 in fines related to worker's alleged exposure to chlorine gas.

March 12, 2014
Recycling Today Staff
Legislation & Regulations

Beck Aluminum Alloys Ltd., which operates Beck Aluminum Racine, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 13 serious violations, carrying proposed penalties of $77,472.

OSHA reports that it initiated an inspection of the company’s Racine, Wis., aluminum plant in September 2013, after receiving a referral that a worker was sickened by exposure to hazardous chlorine gas while changing cylinders. The inspection also found that company officials did not remove other workers from the area after exposure to the gas was known and failed to evaluate the danger to life and health.

"Employers have a responsibility to provide workers with proper training and to implement procedures that protect employees from chemical hazards in the workplace," says Christine Zortman, OSHA's area director in Milwaukee.

"It's unacceptable that Beck Aluminum Racine failed to develop safety procedures to prevent the release of chlorine gas during maintenance. When a release of chlorine gas occurred, the company failed to remove employees immediately from potential exposure. This can cause severe health issues related to the skin and the respiratory and central nervous systems. Exposure to high concentrations can result in death."

Thirteen serious violations were issued. The company was cited for failing to establish lockout/tagout procedures to prevent the inadvertent release of chemical energy; an inability to estimate employee exposure during a chlorine release; failing to provide training to employees performing emergency response procedures; lack of annual inspections of energy control procedures; and stacking large totes of crushed aluminum casts in an unstable manner.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.