Monday, April 8, 2013

OSHA fines Newark food-flavoring company over workplace chemical exposure

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Natural Flavors Inc. for 12 workplace safety and health violations at its Newark facility. OSHA began its inspection after receiving information that workers were potentially exposed to diacetyl, a chemical used in flavorings. Proposed penalties total $60,400.

The inspection confirmed that workers were overexposed to diacetyl, a serious violation that was cited with a $2,800 penalty. Studies have linked exposure to diacetyl to the development of permanent lung damage, including the rare lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans.

"As early as 2004, the flavoring manufacturing industry has been aware that its workers who are overexposed to diacetyl on the job have developed severe, life-threatening lung disease. It is outrageous that Natural Flavors would expose workers to this debilitating chemical without taking the necessary steps to properly assess exposure and protect its employees," said Robert D. Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

One willful violation, with a penalty of $28,000, was cited for the company's failure to adequately identify and evaluate respiratory hazards. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Two repeat violations, with a penalty of $9,600, reflect the company's failure to implement a site-specific respiratory protection program and update material safety data sheets within three months of receiving significant new information regarding chemical hazards or ways to protect against the hazards. A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcements states within the last five years. The same violations were cited in 2008.

Eight additional serious violations, with $20,000 in penalties, were cited for failing to properly mark a doorway which could have been mistaken for an exit; improperly store and transfer flammable liquids; improper use of a respirator; and for use of excessive compressed air pressure, above OSHA's limit of 30 pounds per square inch, for cleansing purposes.

"The conditions OSHA cited jeopardize the safety and health of workers at this facility," said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA's Parsippany Area Office. "It is critical that the company take immediate steps to abate these hazards."

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, ask for an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Parsippany, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Concerned about workplace chemical exposure? Contact an industrial air cleaning expert at 1-866-667-0297.

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