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On a quiet Sunday evening in March, a Massachusetts neighborhood was rocked when a blast ripped through the Bostik Chemical Plant. After an extensive investigation, it was determined a valve was left open that released explosive acetone vapors. Four workers were injured in the explosion.
The accident may have been avoidable: a subsequent OSHA inspection revealed 50 safety violations. In mid September, OSHA proposed fines against Bostik totaling $917,000 for deficiencies that put employees at a heightened risk of injury.
Bostik Made an Example Of
Bostik, a manufacturer of adhesives and industrial sealants, had been warned of safety issues in the past. According to OSHA agents, both third party and internal safety audits revealed a wide range of deficiencies in Bostik's safety management program. Among other things, the plan failed to address threats created by human error, deal with previous incidents (including a forklift crash) or establish proper standards for the use hazardous equipment that could ignite flammable gases.
The explosion, coupled with worker injuries, drew OSHA's attention in a way previous safety oversights never could. Out of 50 safety violations uncovered in the OSHA investigation, nine were "willful," meaning the company was aware of their noncompliance and still failed to make corrections. Willful violations are the most serious type of workplace safety violation.
The majority of the substantial fines levied against Bostik correspond to the handful of willful violations: $630,000 of the penalty is for willful infractions, with $287,000 attributable to 41 other citations. Bostik has a limited amount of time to contest the fines before an independent commission.
OSHA Regulations Meant To Help Keep Workers Safe
The safety standards promulgated by OSHA are designed to keep employees safe in the workplace. While enforcement came too late for the four workers injured in the Bostik explosion, the steep fines could deter other companies from taking such a callous stance toward safety in the future.
If you have been injured in a workplace accident, make sure you receive the workers' compensation benefits you are entitled to. Contact an attorney today to find out what legal options may be at your disposal.