FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 13, 2012
Cal/OSHA issues $540,890 to three companies for violations in Sylmar explosion
Van Nuys – The California Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued 28 citations with penalties totaling $540,890 following its investigation of the August 9 explosion in Sylmar that injured three people, two of them critically. Investigators found violations at three firms which included eighteen serious and six willful citations. The citations were issued to three companies, Rainbow of Hope AKA Rainbow of Hope Foundation, Strategic Sciences, Inc. and Realm Catalyst.
The explosion occurred when a pressure vessel containing compressed gas, including oxygen and hydrogen, exploded while the two workers were transferring hydrogen and oxygen gas from one cylinder to another. The explosion took the arm and leg of one of the men and seriously injured the other. Another worker injured as a result of the blast was reportedly treated and released for minor injuries.
“Employers who do not live up to their responsibility of providing a safe and healthy work environment will be held accountable,” said DIR Director Christine Baker. “This case represents a breakdown of employer responsibility on multiple levels with three separate employers and a devastating result experienced by the workers.”
“Our investigation documented a troubling disregard for safety as the employer continued to manufacture and store gases that are known to be highly explosive without the proper safety procedures in place”, said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “Employers cannot place their employees at risk by skirting their workplace safety responsibilities.”
The Cal/OSHA investigation revealed that the three employers, Rainbow of Hope AKA Rainbow of Hope Foundation, Strategic Sciences, Inc. and Realm Catalyst, were involved in the manufacture and storage of the oxygen/hydrogen gas that could reasonably be expected to give rise to explosive environments. The employers failed to correct hazardous conditions that had been previously identified in two prior explosions, including one incident that resulted in the death of a worker in Simi Valley in June, 2010. Instead, the Rainbow of Hope and Realm Catalyst continued to manufacture TyLar gas without protecting employees from explosion hazards. Copies of the citations and a summary of the incident are available at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/citation.html.
The August 9 explosion took place on the same day of a hearing for citations issued by Cal/OSHA against Realm Catalyst for another explosion that had occurred in June 2010 which took the life of a worker in Simi Valley. The hearing resulted in a settlement reducing penalties against the employer from $5,685 and downgrading one of the citations from serious to general in classification due to a lack of evidence as it had been destroyed in the accident.
A willful violation is issued when evidence shows the employer is aware that a hazardous condition exists and no reasonable effort is made to eliminate the hazard. A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious physical harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation. A general violation is one in which an accident or illness may result but would probably not cause death or serious harm.
The Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, protects workers and the public from hazards through its standards and numerous inspection programs, and also provides consultation to employers. Employers who want to learn more about Cal/OSHA and how to reduce workplace injuries can get information at the DIR Web site at www.dir.ca.gov/dosh.
Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Unit at (800) 963-9424 provides free information and training on occupational safety and health hazards and ways to protect workers from these hazards.
Employees with work-related questions or complaints, including heat illness, may call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at (866) 924-9757.
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