Fatality at Texas Worksite Results in OSHA Citations and Fines

January 1, 2006

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Degussa Engineered Carbons LP of Aransas Pass, Texas, in connection with a fatal accident in June. OSHA has proposed penalties totaling $64,125 for alleged willful and serious violations of workplace safety standards.

The agency’s investigation began June 28, after an employee riding an open-air elevator at the company’s Aransas Pass facility fell more than 70 feet to his death when safety devices and brakes on the elevator failed to function.

“If the employer had adequately maintained its equipment, this tragedy could have been avoided,” said John Giefer, OSHA Corpus Christi area director.

OSHA issued a willful citation for reported failure to implement an equipment and maintenance schedule. The lift cable of the elevator had become corroded by salt air and process chemicals, and the employer did not make necessary repairs. OSHA issues a willful citation when there is evidence of the intentional violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act or plain indifference to its requirements.

A serious citation was issued for reportedly failing to adequately protect employees from electrical hazards. In this case, there was an unguarded opening in an electrical box. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Degussa Engineered Carbons, whose corporate offices are in Humble, Texas, manufactures black carbon used as coloring in automotive tires, rubber, ink and paints. The company employs about 353 workers nationwide, 42 of whom work at the Aransas Pass facility.

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

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