Buffalo, New York-based Tonawanda Coke Corp. is looking at $160,100 in possible fines from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, for a total of 17 alleged safety violations. The investigation came after an explosion at the company’s Tonawanda plant that injured three workers; two permanent workers and a temporary worker. Tonawanda is a town in the Buffalo suburbs.
OSHA issued a statement last week, in which it said the explosion occurred because the company failed to make sure safety systems were in place and proper precautions had been taken to protect workers. They also took issue with the preventable hazards that existed at the plant and he way in which they were largely overlooked or ignored. The agency noted that conditions at the plant left workers exposed to potential falls, injuries and amputations from machinery hat sometimes activated unexpectedly. Just as troubling was that workers at the plant were unable to quickly and safely exit in an emergency.
In all, Tonawanda Coke was cited for 15 serious violations, worth $90,100 in proposed fines, as well as two repeat violations, worth $70,000 in proposed fines. The repeat violations were for their failure to train employees with regard to lockout procedures and their failure to certify inspections of those procedures.
The explosion, which occurred on Jan. 31, was caused when an over-pressured coke oven manifold released gas from the coke oven into an enclosed area, where it then ignited. The explosion caused brick walls tocollapse and also damaged electrical equipment.
Government officials in New York state have stated that they were shocked that more workers weren’t hurt in the incident. They referred to the safety violations as frightening but unsurprising, and they have asked OSHA to watch the facility closely.