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OSHA levies penalties after explosion at Texas recycling plant

11 July 2012

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Electronic Recycling and Trading Co. with 14 serious violations after two workers were injured from a combustible dust explosion at the company's work site in Austin, Texas. Proposed penalties total $60,060.

ERT headquarters in Austin, Texas
ERT headquarters in Austin, Texas

"Employers must ensure their workplaces are evaluated for hazards and take corrective action before a dangerous incident such as this occurs," said Casey Perkins, OSHA's area director in Austin. "Combustible dust hazards can be controlled by implementing multiple safeguards, such as installing proper exhaust ventilation systems."

An inspection began on January 10 after an explosion at the company's facility on Bratton Road. Workers were sorting materials on the output conveyor when combustible dust generated by a nearby ring mill pulverizing machine caused an explosion that sent two workers to the hospital with severe burns.

The safety inspection violations include failing to provide approved and adequate dust collection and fire suppression systems for the ring mill; training for, and certification of, forklift operators; specific lockout/tagout and confined space entry procedures; and adequate housekeeping for the control of combustible dust accumulations.

Health violations include failing to implement a hearing conservation program, such as audiometric testing; ensure work surfaces were free of lead deposits; and implement a respiratory protection 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.

Electronic Recycling and Trading, which employs about 30 workers who recycle electronic plastics, has 15 business days from receipt of citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Austin Area Office, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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