February 22, 2002

MEI Holdings, Inc. has agreed to hire a full-time safety and health director, implement a comprehensive safety and health program, and provide training to all of its production employees, as part of a final settlement agreement with OSHA. The company will also pay $300,000 in penalties for safety and health violations at its Perry, Fla., plant.

The agreement settles citations issued by OSHA against MEI Holdings, Inc., (doing business as Martin Electronics) on October 30, 2000, following an explosion that destroyed a building used for drying wet composition of potentially volatile chemicals that are used for infrared decoy flares. The explosion claimed the life of one employee and seriously injured another.

MEI Holdings employs about 285 workers at the Perry facility. The company manufactures and supplies military pyrotechnics/explosives to the Department of Defense.


Preventing falls, particularly at construction sites across the Southeast, is the goal of a special emphasis program announced recently by OSHA.

According to OSHA statistics, last year 33 percent of all fatal workplace accidents in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi were caused by falls, and 70 percent of these fatal falls occurred at construction sites. During that period, OSHA's southeastern area offices investigated 83 fatalities involving falls; 58 of which were in the construction industry.

"Many of these lives could have been saved if a means of fall protection had been provided for these workers," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's Atlanta regional administrator.

OSHA's commitment to reducing fall hazards is a three-pronged effort. First, nine compliance assistant specialists, who operate independently of OSHA's enforcement efforts, will be available to help employers and employees recognize and prevent fall hazards. Second, OSHA will conduct educational outreach sessions. And finally, compliance officers specifically trained to identify fall hazards and perform on-the-spot inspections will conduct enforcement operations at worksites.

Coe is hopeful that providing fall protection training, raising awareness of OSHA's regulatory requirements, and increasing enforcement activity will save lives.

Involved in the program are OSHA offices in Alabama: Mobile (334) 441-6131, Birmingham (205) 731-1534; Florida: Jacksonville (904) 232-2895, Tampa (813) 626-1177, Fort Lauderdale (954) 424-0242; Georgia: Atlanta-East (770) 493-6644, Atlanta-West (770) 984-8700, Savannah (912) 652-4393; and Mississippi: Jackson (601) 965-4604.


OSHA has endorsed a voluntary product stewardship program designed to reduce workplace exposures to refractory ceramic fiber (RCF) products.

During a formal exchange of letters on February 11 between OSHA Administrator John Henshaw and William Kelly, President of the Refractory Ceramic Fiber Coalition, Henshaw said workers and employers in all segments of the industry can benefit from the Coalition's commitment to assure the safe handling of products containing the fibers, used mainly for high temperature insulation applications.

Some of the studies of workers exposed to RCF fibers have shown some evidence of decreased pulmonary functions and chronic respiratory disease. Also, animal studies have indicated that the fibers pose a potential risk of cancer.

Briefly, the five-year program:

  • Recommends voluntary exposure limits of 0.5 fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc) over an eight-hour time-weighted average for RCF.
  • Stresses the use of product design, engineering controls, work practices, respiratory protection or a combination of all to achieve exposure control for each worker.
  • Ensures that appropriate respiratory protection is used where average airborne RCF concentrations are not reliably below the recommended exposure limit. Will also incorporate all relevant requirements of OSHA's respiratory protection standard.
  • Proposes a communications program designed to promote and advertise training seminars and other training opportunities.
  • Establishes voluntary reporting procedures for the program's progress. Reports will be submitted to OSHA and other interested parties, providing exposure and medical monitoring results and information on program performance.
  • Encourages research to develop new and improved RCF product forms that will reduce the potential for worker exposure.

This stewardship program is similar to one adopted three years ago by three industry associations, and endorsed by OSHA, to protect employees involved in the manufacture and handling of fiberglass-containing products.

Members of the Refractory Ceramic Fiber Coalition include Thermal Ceramics, Inc.; Unifrax Corporation; and Vesuvius USA Corporation (formerly known as Premier Refractories).


Beginning March 1, 2002, Environmental Resource Center will be offering a new "Reg of the Day" e-mail newsletter. Each issue will include a short overview of an environmental or safety regulation. It's a way to stay up to date daily with the latest and greatest regulatory requirements and expand your knowledge of the regulations in easily absorbable bits.


Failure of the Pasadena Tank Corp. to protect workers from fall hazards resulted in the death of a worker at a Houston construction site and has led OSHA to issue citations against the company, with proposed penalties totaling $258,000.

OSHA cited the company, headquartered in Houston, with six alleged willful and serious safety violations. OSHA began its investigation Aug. 23, 2001 when an employee, who was repairing the rooftop of a storage tank, fell 56 feet to the ground when the rooftop collapsed.

"The employer knew about the unsafe working conditions, but continued to place workers at risk," said John Lawson, OSHA Houston North area director. "A similar incident happened two years ago when two employees fell to their deaths from a storage tank. This company's continued failure to protect its workers from falls is simply unacceptable."

The company was cited with four alleged willful violations for failing to protect workers by providing an inadequate fall protection system. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.

The company was also cited with two alleged serious violations for failing to train workers and protect workers from falling objects. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Pasadena Tank Corp. has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the area director, or to contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.