OSHA has issued 12 serious citations to a chemical manufacturer in Nitro, WV, in connection with the asphyxiation death from nitrogen of a worker in June 2012.
The worker was sandblasting at the AC&S, Inc., facility, according to OSHA, when the air line for a supplied air hood was hooked up to a nitrogen gas line. The employee, identified as Rex Wilcoxen by AC&S, lost consciousness. He was taken to a hospital where he died.
Two serious violations were directly related to Wilcoxen’s death:
- failing to label nitrogen lines at connection points, and
- not ensuring breathing air couplings were incompatible with other gas systems.
According to OSHA, “Nitrogen is an asphyxiant. Inhalation of nitrogen is dangerous only when it lowers the available oxygen in air to below life-sustaining levels.”
Other violations cited by OSHA include failing to:
- provide training on hazardous chemicals
- ensure stairs wider than 44 inches have handrails on each side
- provide process safety information and process hazard analysis
- develop a mechanical integrity program
- document that equipment complied with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices.
The fines totaled $42,700. OSHA also issued five non-serious citations for problems that must be fixed but that had no proposed penalty.
OSHA has ordered AC&S to install a plant-wide pipeline-labeling system, using the correct color scheme for nitrogen.
AC&S says it’s working with OSHA on the violations. A statement from the company said, “We began working with OSHA immediately following the accident to address its concerns and do all that we can to ensure that this type of accident will never happen again.”