The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has completed its investigation into multiple fires that have broken out at the Woodbridge Englewood Inc. doing business as Hematite, Inc. auto parts manufacturing plant in Clayton, Ohio. Over a two year period from June 2020 through June 2022, thirteen fires broke out at the plant. The plastic used by the plant in the creation of auto parts had a tendency to catch fire in ovens.
The OSHA investigation determined that Woodbridge Englewood did not follow required federal standards. The company required its workers to use handheld fire extinguishers when in order to battle the fires. Following the investigation, OSHA issued multiple citations, for violations of the below federal guidelines:
- OSH ACT of 1970 Section (5)(a)(1): The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.
- 29 CFR 1910.37(a): Exit routes must be free and unobstructed. No materials or equipment may be placed, either permanently or temporarily, within the exit route. The exit access must not go through a room that can be locked, such as a bathroom, to reach an exit or exit discharge, nor may it lead into a dead-end corridor. Stairs or a ramp must be provided where the exit route is not substantially level.
- 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1): The employer shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). If such hazards are present, or likely to be present, the employer shall: (i) Select, and have each affected employee use, the types of PPE that will protect the affected employee from the hazards identified in the hazard assessment; (ii) Communicate selection decisions to each affected employee; and, (iii) Select PPE that properly fits each affected employee.
- 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(4)(i) Procedures shall be developed, documented and utilized for the control of potentially hazardous energy when employees are engaged in the activities covered by this section.
- 29 CFR 1910.147(d): Application of control. The established procedures for the application of energy control (the lockout or tagout procedures) shall cover the following elements and actions and shall be done in the following sequence: (1) Preparation for shutdown. Before an authorized or affected employee turns off a machine or equipment, the authorized employee shall have knowledge of the type and magnitude of the energy, the hazards of the energy to be controlled, and the method or means to control the energy. (2) Machine or equipment shutdown. The machine or equipment shall be turned off or shut down using the procedures established for the machine or equipment. An orderly shutdown must be utilized to avoid any additional or increased hazard(s) to employees as a result of the equipment stoppage. (3) Machine or equipment isolation. All energy isolating devices that are needed to control the energy to the machine or equipment shall be physically located and operated in such a manner as to isolate the machine or equipment from the energy source(s). (4)(i) Lockout or tagout devices shall be affixed to each energy isolating device by authorized employees. (5)(i) Following the application of lockout or tagout devices to energy isolating devices, all potentially hazardous stored or residual energy shall be relieved, disconnected, restrained, and otherwise rendered safe. (6) Verification of isolation. Prior to starting work on machines or equipment that have been locked out or tagged out, the authorized employee shall verify that isolation and de-energization of the machine or equipment have been accomplished.
- 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(4)(ii): Energy control procedures. The procedures shall clearly and specifically outline the scope, purpose, authorization, rules, and techniques to be utilized for the control of hazardous energy, and the means to enforce compliance including, but not limited to, the following: (B) Specific procedural steps for shutting down, isolating, blocking and securing machines or equipment to control hazardous energy; (D) Specific requirements for testing a machine or equipment to determine and verify the effectiveness of lockout devices, tagout devices, and other energy control measures.
- 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(6)(i):The employer shall conduct a periodic inspection of the energy control procedure at least annually to ensure that the procedure and the requirements of this standard are being followed. (A) The periodic inspection shall be performed by an authorized employee other than the ones(s) utilizing the energy control procedure being inspected. (B) The periodic inspection shall be conducted to correct any deviations or inadequacies identified. (C) Where lockout is used for energy control, the periodic inspection shall include a review, between the inspector and each authorized employee, of that employee’s responsibilities under the energy control procedure being inspected.
- 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(7)(i): The employer shall provide training to ensure that the purpose and function of the energy control program are understood by employees and that the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage, and removal of the energy controls are acquired by employees. The training shall include the following: (A) Each authorized employee shall receive training in the recognition of applicable hazardous energy sources, the type and magnitude of the energy available in the workplace, and the methods and means necessary for energy isolation and control.
- 29 CFR 1910.212(a)(1): Types of guarding. One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Examples of guarding methods are-barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, electronic safety devices, etc.
- 29 CFR 1910.1200(h)(3): Training. Employee training shall include at least: (i) Methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area (such as monitoring conducted by the employer, continuous monitoring devices, visual appearance or odor of hazardous chemicals when being released, etc.); (ii) The physical, health, simple asphyxiation, combustible dust, and pyrophoric gas hazards, as well as hazards not otherwise classified, of the chemicals in the work area; (iii) The measures employees can take to protect themselves from these hazards, including specific procedures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as appropriate work practices, emergency procedures, and personal protective equipment to be used.
- 29 CFR 1910.157(g)(1): Where the employer has provided portable fire extinguishers for employee use in the workplace, the employer shall also provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage firefighting.
- 29 CFR 1910.157(g)(2): The employer shall provide the education required in paragraph (g)(1) of this section upon initial employment and at least annually thereafter.
- 1910.157(g)(3) The employer shall provide employees who have been designated to use fire fighting equipment as part of an emergency action plan with training in the use of the appropriate equipment.
- 29 CFR 1910.157(g)(4) The employer shall provide the training required in paragraph (g)(3) of this section upon initial assignment to the designated group of employees and at least annually thereafter.
As a result of the findings, OSHA recommended fines totaling $271,403.00.
It goes without saying that safe companies must have policies and procedures to protect their workers in the event of an emergency. It is more than merely having a written down procedure, companies must ensure that their workers understand and follow what has been developed in the event of a fire. OSHA has previously issued guidance on emergency procedures and evacuation plans. OSHA recommends:
Drafting an emergency action plan (EAP) is not enough to ensure the safety of your employees. When an evacuation is necessary, you will need responsible, trained individuals who can supervise and coordinate activities to ensure a safe and successful evacuation. An EAP will be useful only if its content is up to date and employees are sufficiently educated and trained before an actual evacuation. The following sections will help you successfully develop and implement your plan:
- Development of an emergency action plan
- Employee training and plan review
- Plan review, coordination, and update
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Our lawyers have represented numerous workers who have sustained serious and catastrophic injuries on a job site as a result of the negligence of another party. There are strict and short time limits on making claims, so please contact us online or call 713-804-9306 or 877-678-5864 to learn more about your legal rights.