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OSHA issues 26 violations for Chicagoland paint factory explosion

Last spring, our blog discussed how a terrifying industrial accident at a paint factory in the northwest suburbs of Chicago left both state and federal investigators with a multitude of unanswered questions.

To recap, emergency responders were summoned to Fox Valley Systems Inc. in Cary back on March 6 after receiving a call that an explosion had sparked a large fire. While the majority of the 23 employees working inside at the time of the workplace accident were able to escape the fire unharmed, three suffered burn injuries ranging from first- to third-degree.

The sheer intensity of the blaze coupled with the instability of the flammable paint chemicals stored within the complex led emergency responders to evacuate 25 local businesses as a precautionary measure. Fortunately, the fire was eventually extinguished after several hours.

In recent developments, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released its official report on the industrial accident just yesterday and the findings were not exactly favorable for Fox Valley Systems.

In total, the paint company was hit with 26 violations and $262,000 in proposed fines.

The reason the fine is so steep is that six of the citations were for willful violations, meaning that they were committed with knowing indifference or disregard for the safety and health of employees.

The six willful OSHA violations were issued for the following infractions:

  • 2 violations for failing to provide employees with accessible exits (the report indicates that exit doors were improperly latched or blocked with snow, and that these blocked exits contributed to the aforementioned employee burn injuries)
  • 1 violation for operating propane-powered trucks in a production area
  • 1 violation for failing to have a written operating procedure in place
  • 1 violation for failing to conduct regularly scheduled inspections of equipment
  • 1 violation for failing to use equipment that met applicable safety standards

"In part, workers were injured in this tragic explosion because they could not get out quickly because of blocked exit doors," said the regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago. "This is unacceptable for any business, and especially for one handling hazardous materials and chemicals daily."

It is worth noting that the OSHA report indicates that the blaze was most likely caused by the ignition of flammable vapors in the plant's production facility. Furthermore, Fox Valley Systems was also placed in the agency's Severe Violator Program, which essentially means it can be subject to future OSHA inspections if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe that the same dangerous conditions still exist.

Consider speaking with an experienced workers' compensation attorney to learn more about your options if you have suffered serious injuries in an industrial workers' accident.

Source: The Northwest Herald, "Fox Valley Systems cited for 26 OSHA violations," Shawn Shinneman, September 5, 2013; NBC Chicago, "Cary plant fined $262,000 following explosion," September 5, 2013

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