Solvay accused of safety violations

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday cited Solvay Specialty Polymers for 12 violations, mainly for exposing workers to chemical hazards from solvents used at its Marietta plant, officials said.

OSHA has proposed penalties of $77,000.

“The plant needs to ensure all equipment and processes receive the proper evaluation and scrutiny before the use of these highly hazardous chemicals. Workers must be trained to handle these chemicals safely,” said Deborah Zubaty, OSHA’s area director in Columbus.

“Process safety management programs are designed to prevent the catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals and to prevent workers from being exposed to these harmful chemicals,” Zubaty said.

The inspection was initiated following a referral from the National Response Center because of an incident involving a methyl chloride release at the plant on July 18, 2013.

The plant produces polymer pellets used in the production of items such as plumbing, electrical connectors, medical devices and fuel filters.

One repeat violation was cited for failing to follow recognized good engineering practices, according to OSHA. The company failed to resolve data for storage tanks when changes in measurements occurred over previous readings, the federal agency said.

A repeat violation exists 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 enforcement states within the last five years. The same violation at this facility was cited in March 2012.

Eleven serious violations were issued, the agency said, and all were related to OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standard. The citations included violations of process safety information, process hazard analysis and mechanical integrity.

Employee exposure to methyl chloride and monochlorobenzene were found during the inspection. When inhaled, the two chemicals can cause damage to the central nervous system.

Managers at the Solvay Specialty Polymers plant were notified of the actions taken by OSHA, plant officials said.

The release was inside the plant and was immediately reported to the relevant federal and local authorities, officials said. The root cause of the release was quickly identified and corrected, Solvay officials said.

“We are cooperating fully with the OSHA inspectors and we take their comments seriously,” said Plant Manager Wally Kandel. “As at all Solvay facilities, we remain committed to safety, and intend to have compliant Process Safety Management (PSM) programs.

“We will continue to place a high emphasis on training programs for employees and contractor personnel to ensure the overall safe operation and maintenance of our plant,” Kandel said.

Safety remains a priority for the company for all involved, he said.

“We care about the safety of our employees and our surrounding community,” Kandel said. “We value our relationship with OSHA and will seek to better understand the nature and extent of the agency’s findings.”

Solvay’s Marietta facility, at 17005 Ohio 7, employs 270 people. The facility is a global supplier of high-performance plastics and polymeric fluids.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s Columbus Area Office or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.