Today we have another story of a seemingly preventable industrial accident that will cost the company in question not just time off and back wages for the workers injured, but also hefty fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The Zimmer TMT plant in Parsippany, NJ manufactures orthopedic devices. Workers at the plant were moving a gas cylinder containing chlorine, with no protective cap on the valve. The cylinder fell and started to leak. As they tried to contain the leak, four workers were sent to the hospital and others were injured but treated on-site. In a public pool, small amounts of chlorine are good but a large amount straight chlorine gas can be deadly.
The issue here is that none of these workers were trained on what to do if something like this happened, there was no emergency plan in place for all the workers to know what to do in case this happened, and workers did not have the proper protective gear in case of this kind of situation.
OSHA handed Zimmer TMT 10 serious violations, saying to some extent that they should have known better. They did not have an emergency plan, there were exits that were obstructed, and machines had been operating without the proper safety mechanisms in place. They will need to pay $56,000 for their citations.
I can remember a project in elementary school that we had to do in case there was a fire in our house. We had to develop an emergency plan and make sure all our family members knew what to do, we had to “train” them on what to do in case of emergency (mainly the stop, drop and roll method if I remember), and we had to establish a meeting place far enough away from the house.
If I could pull all that together as an elementary school kid it seems like organizations should be able to develop a basic plan in case an emergency situation happens. It could save them money because they wouldn’t pay fines to OSHA and they would be less likely to have injured workers to be financially responsible for in the first place. More importantly, it could save lives.