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Release Number: 2023-24
Date: March 21, 2023

Cal/OSHA Cites Sterilization Company $838, 800 for Overexposing Employees to Toxic Chemical

Santa Ana—Cal/OSHA issued 18 citations, including six citations for willful-serious violations, to Parter Medical Products, Inc. for failing to protect its employees from overexposure to ethylene oxide, a toxic chemical. A willful violation is issued when evidence shows that the employer committed an intentional and knowing violation. The penalties total $838,800.

“Our inspection showed this was not an isolated incident of chemical overexposure to workers,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Jeff Killip. “The employer failed to take action to protect employees even after it knew that some of them were exposed to dangerous levels of ethylene oxide.”
Parter Medical Products, Inc. dba Parter Sterilization Services uses ethylene oxide gas to sterilize medical devices. Chronic exposure to ethylene oxide is associated with cancer, reproductive effects and neurotoxicity. Its odor is undetectable to humans until the concentration exceeds hazardous levels.

On August 5, 2022, Cal/OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) Unit opened an inspection at the Parter facility in Carson. The PSM Unit is responsible for inspecting refineries and chemical plants that handle large quantities of toxic and flammable materials. PSM’s inspection followed an investigation by South Coast Air Quality Management District, which referred the matter to Cal/OSHA.

Parter shut down its facility in August 2022 for several months while it made modifications to reduce outdoor ethylene oxide emissions. However, Parter’s remediation efforts did not solve the employee-exposure issues indoors. When Cal/OSHA resumed its inspection in December 2022, it found that one employee was overexposed to ethylene oxide his entire shift. Under Cal/OSHA regulations, the permissible exposure limit for eight hours is no more than 1 ppm (parts per million). The employee’s exposure averaged 5 ppm during the shift and averaged 9 ppm during a three-and-a-half-hour period. Tests show Parter employees were exposed to ethylene oxide above the permissible limit from 2019 until 2022.

Cal/OSHA’s citations include violations for the employer’s failure to have an effective safety plan to evaluate and develop controls for hazards, failure to develop a respiratory protection plan as required, failure to monitor employee exposure, and failure to notify workers of exposure over the permissible limit for ethylene oxide.  

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA is a division with the Department of Industrial Relations that helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California. Employers who have questions or want assistance with workplace health and safety programs can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at 800-963-9424.

Workers who have questions about their rights or have questions about workplace protections can call Cal/OSHA’s Bilingual Call Center at 833-579-0927 to speak with a Cal/OSHA representative. Complaints about workplace safety and health hazards can be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA district offices. Information and other resources can be found on Cal/OSHA’s website.

Media Contact: Communications@dir.ca.gov, (510) 286-1161

Employers with Questions on Requirements May Contact: InfoCons@dir.ca.gov or call your local Cal/OSHA Consultation Office.