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TPC Group Among 5 Texas Companies to Receive Largest OSHA Fines in Last 3 Years

Undefeated Texas Plant Explosion - Texas Companies Hit with Largest OSHA Fines

Texas employers have been keeping the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) busy.

In fact, over the past three years alone, the agency has issued a combined $2.8 million in penalties against five Texas companies after egregious safety violations led to explosions and other accidents that seriously injured – and in some cases killed – their workers.

According to The Houston Chronicle, the five companies – TPC Group, Marshall Pottery, Texas Packing Company, Custom Rubber Products, and Quala Rail and Specialty – received the state’s largest initial fines during that period.

About OSHA and Workplace Safety Violations

OSHA was established under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which holds companies responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. A branch of the U.S. Department of Labor, the agency enforces standards and provides training in workplace safety.

OSHA can assess initial penalties when safety problems are uncovered after routine inspections or when violations result in a worker’s injury or death. Those initial penalties may be reduced after an employer mitigates the violations or negotiates a lesser fine.

$715,000 Fines After Marshall Pottery Worker Dies in Kiln

In April 2017, an assistant manager at Marshall Pottery in Marshall, Texas, died after becoming trapped in a 300-foot kiln. According to The Marshall News Messenger, the 42-year-old man and father of three had just finished making repairs to the apparatus when an automated system suddenly, and without warning, closed the kiln doors behind him, and the chamber began heating up.

OSHA initially fined Marshall Pottery $715,000 for six willful and 21 serious violations connected with the tragic incident. However, following negotiations, the company agreed to a settlement of $514,160.

Marshall Pottery was cited for similar violations in 2008 after a 31-year-old assistant manager was crushed to death in a kiln.

$615,000 Fine for Texas Packing Company

In March 2018, a machine used to remove horns from slaughtered cows activated while an employee of San Angelo-based Texas Packing Company had his hand inside the equipment. The worker lost two fingers and was hospitalized.

OSHA did not learn of the incident until November 2018, after someone filed a complaint with the Department of Labor. Among other things, agency inspectors alleged the company had failed to protect workers from direct exposure to more than five tons of ammonia.

While OSHA initially assessed $615,000 in fines against Texas Packing, the company ultimately paid just $249,000.

$530,000 Fine Against Custom Rubber Products

In November 2018, two employees at Custom Rubber Products in Houston were operating a lathe when one of their hands was pulled into the machine. The worker was hospitalized with a fractured arm.

OSHA inspectors determined the lathe lacked a proper guarding mechanism and fined the company a total of $530,000.

Custom Rubber Products is protesting the penalties.

$514,000 in Fines Following TPC Port Neches Plant Explosion

A butadiene leaked triggered a series of explosions at the TPC Group’s Port Neches chemical plant in November 2019, just one day before Thanksgiving. The massive blast injured three workers, caused widespread damage throughout the surrounding community, and forced more than 60,000 residents of Port Neches, Groves, Nederland, Central Gardens, Beauxart Gardens, and parts of Port Arthur to evacuate their homes through the holiday.

OSHA has since assessed $514,000 in penalties against the TPC Group for three willful violations that allegedly led to the incident:

  • Failure to provide updated instructions on how to shut down affected equipment.
  • Failure to fix deficient equipment that could have caused the explosion or alerted workers to a problem.
  • Failure to use proper procedures on a pipeline design known to cause issues when using butadiene.

The company is also protesting those penalties.

Quala Rail and Specialty Hit with Over $497,000 After Deaths of 2 Workers

In December 2019, three workers were overcome by fumes while cleaning the inside of a chemical storage tank at Quala Rail and Specialty in Pasadena, Texas. While all three men were pulled from the tank, two were pronounced dead at the scene.

OSHA later cited the company for failing to monitor oxygen levels inside the tank, assessing more than $497,000 in penalties. Quala Rail and Specialties has since protested the fines.

The previous May, OSHA fined the company $26,800 in connection with four safety violations at the Pasadena facility. Among other things, agency inspectors cited problems with employees working in tight spaces.

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