Verla International failed to properly dispense flammable liquids and did not properly dispose of combustible waste material on the day multiple explosions and fire ravaged its New Windsor, NY, cosmetics factory, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Nearly six months after the incident, in which a Newburgh, NY, man was killed and 125 suffered injuries, the company is facing $281,220 in fines.
Following an investigation in the wake of the fire, OSHA cited Verla International for 11 violations.
That includes two repeat violations regarding the safe transfer and storage of flammable liquids and waste material.
“An employer’s adherence to safety and health standards, including the proper and safe transfer of flammable liquids, is critical to preventing fire, explosions and other incidents that can seriously or fatally injured workers,” said OSHA Albany Area Office Director Robert Garvey.
On Nov. 20, a pair of explosions and a fire tore through the New Windsor facility. More than 100 firefighters helped extinguish the flames started by the explosions, the first of which was reported at 10:19 a.m. Efforts to put out the flames continued until 12:15 a.m. on Nov. 21.
Orange County fire officials ruled the fire accidental, and determined the massive fire began when static electricity ignited a flammable liquid during the manufacturing process.
The list of violations included failing to ensure proper electrical grounding and bonding to prevent flammable vapors from igniting, failure to develop and implement an emergency response plan, failure to provide employees with first responder awareness level training, failure to record a workplace fatality in its OSHA 300 illness and injury log, and compressed air hazards, according to a release from OSHA.
William Huntington, 57, of Newburgh, was killed in the incident.
Verla had been cited 12 times in 2017 according to the Department of Labor, with nine of those violations deemed “serious.”
Last week, OSHA fined Verla nearly $130,000 for a repeat violation for dispensing flammable liquids “into containers without the nozzle and the container(s) being electrically interconnected,” for which it was also cited in 2017 and 2013.
OSHA also fined the company more than $71,000 because “combustible waste material and residues … were not kept to a minimum, stored in covered metal receptacles and disposed of daily,” a violation which it also noted in 2013. On Nov. 20, the company disposed of “paper towels used to clean up flammable liquid spills … “in open top trash bins along with all other trash” rather than covered metal receptacles, according to OSHA.
Days after the fire, the Orange County Executive’s Office released a video showing the first explosion. In the video, a worker wipes a chemical tank. Seconds later, the tank becomes engulfed in flames, with parts of the man’s clothing catching on fire as he runs from the explosion. The man sustained minor injuries, according to the County Executive’s Office.
Click here to view the video of the blast.