Georgia-Pacific Chemicals cited for 11 serious chemical safety violations; OSHA proposes $60,500 in penalties
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Workers at Georgia-Pacific Chemicals LLC were exposed to dangerous chemicals, such as formaldehyde and other potential health and safety hazards, because the company failed to implement proper chemical management procedures at its Columbus plant. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration produced 11 serious violations with penalties totaling $60,500.
OSHA cited the violations under its Process Safety Management Standards, which contain specific requirements for managing highly hazardous chemicals in work processes. One of the hazards identified was formaldehyde, which is manufactured for use in various industrial applications and products. Formaldehyde can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat; it is deadly if swallowed. Formaldehyde also is a fire and explosion hazard if exposed to heat or flame. It is a colorless, strong-smelling gas.
'Chemical manufacturing can be catastrophic if proper safeguards are not in place, and Georgia-Pacific Chemicals failed to meet that responsibility,' said Deborah Zubaty, OSHA's area director in Columbus. 'Exposure to formaldehyde can have serious health consequences. Workers should not be put at risk because this company failed to implement required procedures.'
The July 16, 2014, inspection found that Georgia-Pacific Chemical's standard operating procedures did not contain accurate information on safety systems and how they worked. The company's process hazard analysis, an evaluation used to identify potential hazards associated with the processing of highly hazardous chemicals, failed to address many issues in the plant. In addition, employees were not trained in changes to these processes, and inspections and equipment testing were not completed as scheduled.
An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.
Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific Chemicals, a subsidiary of Georgia-Pacific LLC, is a nationwide chemical manufacturer and distributor. The company produces a diverse range of products used in the building, oil and gas, mining, paper and packaging industries.
The company employs 44 workers at the Columbus plant and has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed 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.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Columbus Area Office at 614-469-5582.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.