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Roof Panel Maker Hit with $123K Fine

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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A Maine-based roof and wall insulation panel manufacturer faces a total of $123,000 in federal fines after regulators uncovered 23 serious safety and health violations at its production plant in Kingston, NY.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Hunter Panels LLC, of Portland, ME, for the alleged violations after a five-month long probe initiated in July 2012. The company was also cited for two other-than-serious violations that carried no fine.

roof panel
Hunter Panels

Founded in 1997, Hunter Panels, of Portland, ME, calls itself a "proactive entrepreneurial manufacturer" of polyiso roof insulation panels.

Hunter Panels did not immediately return a request for comment on the case. The company bills itself as a leading manufacturer of polyisocyanurate roof insulation and currently operates seven manufacturing plants throughout the United States.

Hazardous Chemical Issues

OSHA’s 42-page citation document detailed several deficiencies found in the plant’s “Process Safety Management program.” PSM standards spell out requirements and procedures employers must follow to address hazards associated with processes and equipment involving large amounts of hazardous chemicals.

The chemical in the Hunter Panels case was n-pentane, an organic compound used in the manufacturing process.

plant
Wikimedia Commons

Process Safety Management programs are designed to prevent catastrophic incidents at facilities that work with hazardous chemicals.

“The stringent and comprehensive requirements of OSHA’s process safety management standard are designed to prevent catastrophic incidents, such as the uncontrolled release of highly hazardous chemicals,” said Kimberly Castillon, OSHA’s area director in Albany, NY. “The safety and well-being of employees requires full, effective and proactive adherence to the standard's requirements by the employer.”

Serious Violations

Hunter Panels' citations included the following, according to OSHA:

  • $14,000 fine for missing process safety information and other issues related to steel metallic hoses;
  • $5,000 fine for unsanitary conditions that included the hazardous accumulation of explosive combustible dust;
  • $7,000 fine for failing to develop and implement safe work practices;
  • $7,000 for not establishing written maintenance procedures for the inspection of pentane piping systems;
  • $7,000 fine for not addressing all hazards identified during a process hazard analysis; and
  • $5,000 fine for failing to document the resolution of corrective actions.

A serious violation occurs 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, according to OSHA.

‘Inadequate’ Emergency Response

The federal regulators also identified inadequate plant emergency response methods, confined space and hazardous energy control programs at the New York production plant.

For example, OSHA inspectors witnessed three employees inside a confined-space laminator without personal protective equipment or respirators. Those hazards carried penalties from ranging from $3,000 to $7,000.

Record and Rights

OSHA also cited the Hunter Panels' plant in Kingston in 2007 for one serious violation involving machine requirements; the company paid a $700 fine.

In 2004, an employee was killed at the company's plant in Lake City, FL, when he fell through an opening in a steel grate 13 feet above a concrete floor. OSHA found that the employee had been given a body harness and lanyard, but was not trained in how to use them or in fall protection. The company was cited for two other-than-serious violations but not fined.

In 2011, the company's Terrell, TX, plant was cited for one serious and one other-than-serious violation. The original fine of $2,975 was later reduced to $1,785.

The 16-year-old company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

   

Tagged categories: Health and safety; Insulation; OSHA; Paneling; Roof insulation; Roofing materials

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