OSHA Cites Firms in Danvers, Mass. Explosion with 23 Violations

June 11, 2007

Federal officials have cited two companies with 23 health and safety violations and proposed fines totaling more than $32,000 in connection with the explosion that destroyed a paint and ink factory in Danvers, Mass. in November, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said.

OSHA said ink manufacturer CAI Inc. and custom paint maker Arnel Co. did not have flammable liquid storage tanks vented to outside the building and had inadequate ventilation in areas where flammable liquids were mixed. The companies were also cited for storing and transferring flammable liquids in a production area.

OSHA issued 13 serious citations to CAI, and is proposing that the company pay $18,000 in fines. Arnel was issued 10 serious citations, with $14,100 in proposed fines.

Neither company immediately returned a call seeking comment.

The pre-dawn explosion on Nov. 22 registered 0.5 on the Richter scale and damaged 270 homes and businesses in the Danversport neighborhood. No one was killed or seriously injured.

Last month, investigators said the blast was caused when flammable vapors collected, then ignited in a seismic explosion.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said employees had routinely shut off a ventilation system in part because neighbors had complained was too noisy. An investigator with the board said that on the day of the explosion, steam used to heat chemicals in an unsealed mixing tank was likely left on overnight. Because the ventilation system was off, vapors from the heated chemicals filled the building. It’s unknown what ignited the explosion because the building was destroyed.

In a statement released after the board announced its preliminary findings, CAI said it “strongly disagrees” with the conclusions and urged a more complete investigation. The CAI statement cited local and state officials who commended the company’s safety record, and said the company had never received notice of any code violations.

OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald said the companies have 15 days to request a conference with OSHA or to contest the citations and proposed fines before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The fines are relatively low, he said.

“The fines in this case reflect the small size of the companies and the fact that neither company has been cited by OSHA in the past,” Fitzgerald said. “You would have higher fines if these had been classified as willful violations.”

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