OSHA Fines Northwest Pipe Co. For Safety Violations at Company’s Houston Facility

July 28, 2005

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Northwest Pipe Co. and proposed penalties totaling $197,500 for exposing employees to safety and health hazards.

OSHA citations against Northwest Pipe, a steel pipe manufacturing company headquartered in Portland, Ore., alleged 38 serious safety violations, 15 serious health violations and two other-than-serious violations following an inspection that began Jan. 19 at the company’s Houston facility. Northwest Pipe employs 1,200 workers nationwide; about 105 are located in Houston.

“OSHA’s standards are designed to protect employees from workplace hazards, but many were not followed by Northwest Pipe” said John Lawson, OSHA’s area director of the Houston North area office. “It is fortunate that no one was injured.”

Serious safety violations included inadequate machine guarding and unsafely stored steel coils. Also cited as serious was the company’s failure to develop and train employees in lockout/tagout procedures to ensure machinery will not start up during maintenance or repair. Additional serious violations involved overloading powered industrial trucks and cranes; failing to properly maintain equipment; and numerous electrical violations, such as damaged flexible cords and circuit breakers that were installed in damp and wet locations. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Serious health citations were issued for failure to: properly label containers and dip tanks; establish a written safety and health program; train employees to safely use hazardous chemicals; provide eye wash stations where caustic materials were being used, and provide ear protection for workers in high-level noise areas.

Other-than-serious citations were issued for failing to mount fire extinguishers and to provide respiratory protection equipment.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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