Safety and OSHA News

State dismisses then reinstates OSHA violations in connection to fatality

Imagine this: A flash fire at work claims the life of a worker. The state issued 16 OSHA violations against the company and then dropped every one of them after the company appealed. Now the violations are reinstated. Here’s why:

According to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) published by McClatchy newspapers, on June 1, 2007, Tina Hall received third-degree burns over 90% of her body due to a flash fire at Toyo Automotive Parts in Franklin, KY. The fire was caused by a spark, probably from static electricity, that ignited solvent.

Kentucky’s Workplace Standards cited Toyo for 16 serious violations, including:

  • obstructed exit routes
  • not keeping flammable liquids in covered containers when they weren’t being used, and
  • failing to control vapors and having inadequate fire-protection equipment.

Fines totaled $105,500.

Workplace Standards dismissed all the citations the following year, saying it had determined the case wouldn’t withstand a challenge by Toyo.

But now the citations are reinstated. Why?

Kentucky dropped the citations after Toyo agreed to correct safety problems and submit to follow-up inspections.

Earlier this year, an inspector returned to the Toyo plant and found not all the problems were corrected.

In what’s thought to be an unprecedented move, Kentucky reinstated all the citations against the company, including the $105,500 fine.

Problem with state programs?

The CPI investigation used the case involving Hall and Toyo to illustrate problems with state-run OSHA programs.

After hearing about the Hall case, Ron Hayes with the F.I.G.H.T. (Families in Grief Hold Together) Project, which helps family members of employees killed at work, filed a complaint about Kentucky Workplace Standards with federal OSHA.

Following an investigation, federal OSHA called the Hall case a “travesty of justice.”

“The violations were well documented and legally sufficient and there was no definitive evidence in the file that indicated that they could not be supported,” said federal OSHA Regional Administrator Cindy Coe.

Following federal investigations into problems at occupational safety agencies in Nevada and Hawaii, the U.S. Department of Labor is developing a new monitoring system for state OSHAs.

What do you think about the Hall-Toyo case? Let us know in the comments below.

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