OSHA Cites Three Safety
Violations at Tubed Products
Daily Hampshire Gazette
By Robert O'Malley
Easthampton - The Federal Occupational, Health and Safety Administration has issued three citations against Tubed Products Inc. for the firm's failure to take adequate precautions in protecting workers from chemicals used in the company's O'Neill Street manufacturing plant.
A number of workers at the plant became ill this summer, reportedly as the result of inhaling vapors from a chemical being used during the manufacturing process at the plant, which produces plastic tubing.
The citations by OSHA ordered the correction of several alleged safety violations, but did not impose a penalty against the firm, the Gazette has learned.
Tubed Products officials said today that all the violations have been corrected.
The citations are the result of an inspection begun at the plant Aug. 20 by an OSHA official after the agency received three employee complaints that about 100 employees were being exposed to chemical vapors from a manufacturing process and that a number had become ill and several hospitalized.
Employee complaints centered on the use of liquid plastic substances, known as epoxy resins, which are used to put a gloss on the plastic tubes the firm manufactures for cosmetic products and other uses.
OSHA cited Tubed Products for failure to instruct factory workers on the hazards associated with working with chemicals used in the manufacturing process. The citations charge that the company never instructed workers about first aid procedures or how to protect themselves from injury from the substances.
The firm also was cited for failing to use "protective equipment" around possible health and safety hazards in the plant. The citation alleges that workers neither were provided with nor used protective gear to protect their clothing or shoes from contamination. Machine operators were not given protective gloves to be used while packing tubes, the citations charge.
The third citation charges that the pressure in compressed air lines to clear manufacturing areas of debris was too high, causing chemical substances to be sprayed on workers or into the air.
On Aug. 6, numerous plant employees reportedly became nauseated or had headaches, and two were sent to the emergency room of the Cooley Dickinson Hospital, apparently from being exposed to a contaminated batch of one of several coatings used at the plant, all of which in general are referred to as "UV-Cured epoxy coatings."
Symptoms included breathing difficulties, skin irritation, fingernails turning blue, headaches, dizziness and nausea.
The OSHA report states that a batch of UV coating 113-117 - manufactured by the Inmont Corp. of New Jersey and Auburn, Mass. and used at the plant Aug. 6 - had an "odor and irritative properties radically different than the typical Inmont UV-cured resins."
An analysis by the Inmont Corp. analytical labs found that the particular batch of the chemical used Aug. 6 at Tubed products "was inexplicably contaminated with approximately 1 percent Ethyl Acrylate and a trace of MEK," the OSHA report states.
According to reference sources at the University of Massachusetts Physical Sciences Reference Library, ethyl acrylate is a flammable and explosive chemical which in vapor from can irritate eyes, nose and throat and cause headaches and nausea. In its liquid form, the chemical can burn skin and eyes and contaminate clothing.
According to the same sources, MEK, or 2-butanone, also a flammable and explosive chemical, is a strong irritant that can affect the peripheral and nervous systems. It is also being studied to see if it is a cause of genetic damage.
OSHA, however, did not have the contaminated batch sent to its own labs for testing, having relied instead on the analysis done by the Inmont Corp., the manufacturer of the product.
OSHA officials declined to comment on why the manufacturer of the chemical performed the analysis. They also declined to comment on other aspects of their findings.
A third Tubed Products employee was sent to the hospital Aug. 20, about two weeks after the apparently contaminated batch of resin was discovered and removed from the manufacturing process.
According to the OSHA report prepared by John J. Gill, who did the inspection, "ethyl acrylate is in a relative sense highly toxic and irritating in relation to the rest of the components in the resins and could very plausibly account for the reactions and symptoms of the people sickened on Aug. 6, 1981."
The report states numerous employees have suffered from dermatitis - skin inflammation - due to exposure to the epoxy resins. Company and OSHA officials both have suggested that some of the coatings can cause allergic reactions like dermatitis or asthmatic symptoms.
The report notes that Tubed Products has installed exhaust ventilation in affected areas of the plant and found that the firm's ventilation system was found to be efficient.
In late September, Gill took numerous air samples at the plant to test for specific substances found in the coatings which could possibly be released into the air, including ethyl acrylate.
While the report states that "air sampling results are still outstanding," a large number of samples already returned show either no detection of the substances tested in the air near the coating machines or very low levels that appear to be below federal standards set for some substances.
While air samples that have been tested seem to show that substances, if detected at all, were not detected in large quantities in the air near the coating machines, traces of several chemicals, including ethyl acrylate, xylene, and ethoxy ethylacetate were detected in several air samples, although never higher than five parts per million.
The citations were issued only for violations occurring on the dates of the inspection, and they were to be corrected either immediately or by Nov. 18.
Besides the O'Neill Street plant, which employs about 200 people to manufacture, gloss and label tubes as well as to mold small bottles, Tubed Products also operates a plant on Pleasant Street employing about 200 people.
Michael V. Gionfriddo, manager of human services at Tubed Products, said he is pleased with the results of the OSHA inspection and tests, contending that the air samples revealed there is no ventilation problem at the O'Neill Street plant.
Gionfriddo said he was informed today that OSHA will not be issuing additional citations and that it plans to close the case. The firm, he said, has asked for a copy of the results of the OSHA inspections and testings and will post the information in plant.
Gionfriddo said that all of the violations have been corrected, adding that the company at the time of the inspection had suggested to OSHA that workers be provided with protective clothing.
Gionfriddo said that workers who handle the chemical coatings have uniforms, but that footgear has not been required because the company now has roughly two gallon containers instead of the former five gallon containers to empty coatings into pans at the machines.
Gloves have not been provided to operators because mechanical adjustments have been made in the coating machines which assure that the coating is dried before handled by workers. The charges, he said, were considered adequate alternatives to the correction of the violations.
Gionfriddo said a meeting had been held with employees informing them about the proper handling of the coatings about three months ago, and that a special nozzle has been installed on the air hoses to reduce the pressure.
He said that, to his knowledge, no Tubed Products employees have complained in recent months about being ill in the plant as a result of the manufacturing process.
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