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Environmental Enterprises Inc. is facing $325,710 in fines for 22 safety and health violations after a fire and explosion occurred at the Cincinnati, OH, waste treatment facility on Dec. 28 where one employee died and another ended up severely burned, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“Environmental Enterprises demonstrated a complete disregard for employee’s safety and health by failing to recognize and train employees on potentially dangerous interactions between materials being handled and tools in use,” said Bill Wilkerson, OSHA’s area director for its Cincinnati office. “Even after this tragic explosion, the company failed to immediately address procedures and ensure employees knew how to use appropriate personal protective equipment and properly handle hazardous waste such as sodium chlorate.”

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OSHA determined the cause of the fire and explosion to be the ignition of an organic industrial filter cartridge filled with sodium chlorate, a strong oxidizer.

The likely source of the ignition was an electrically-powered reciprocating saw that the employees received permission to use to remove metal end caps and mesh from the filter, OSHA said. When in contact with incompatible materials, including organics, sodium chlorate becomes sensitive to reactions capable of resulting in fire and violent explosions.

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As a result of the four willful violations found related to the fatality, OSHA placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

OSHA’s SVEP focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations at related work sites of the employer.

The four willful violations cited involve failing to develop and implement hazardous waste handling procedures, to provide new training to employees assigned to handle waste materials, to select and ensure the use of proper personal protective equipment, and to train workers on its selection and use for protection from various materials that are part of their routine assignments. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing of voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Nine serious safety violations relate to the use of electrical equipment within the flammable storage room causing a fire hazard, not developing material handling procedures, inadequate hazardous waste processing and permit-confined space procedures, failing to conduct periodic inspections of energy-control procedures and lack of training and personal protective equipment for employees assigned to work on energized circuits.

An additional seven serious health violations involve the lack of a hearing conservation program; improper storage of flammable liquids; failing to develop a hazard communication program; not fully developing decontamination procedures and a written emergency response plan; allowing lead, inorganic arsenic and cadmium dust accumulation; inadequate exposure control plan; and violations of the bloodborne pathogen program. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Cincinnati-based Environmental Enterprises Inc. employs 85 workers. The company also has business-related facilities in Columbus, OH; Virginia and Pennsylvania, which employ an additional 35 workers.

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