The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspected a Tonawanda Coke Corp. facility after an explosion in January 2014. OSHA’s findings led to more than $160,000 in fines for a multitude of serious and repeat safety violations.
Two permanent workers were injured in the accident, along with one temporary worker. Tonawanda was cited after the incident along with Kirchner LLC, a staffing company that helped provide temporary workers for the facility.
Tonawanda produces coke, a fuel made from coal with high levels of carbon. Investigators determined that excessive pressure in a coke oven manifold caused the explosion, after a flare stack failed.
A flare stack helps a coke oven burn off excess gas. When it malfunctioned, coke oven gas leaked into a small area and ignited.
What Are the Dangers of Coke Gas Exposure?
OSHA inspectors determined that Tonawanda had failed to inspect and maintain safety systems to make sure they were effective. The company’s negligence exposed workers to asphyxiation, explosion and combustion hazards from the escaping gas.
Long-term exposure to coke gas could cause conjunctivitis, commonly known as pinkeye, severe dermatitis and lesions in the respiratory and digestive system. Coke exposure can also cause lung, kidney and prostate cancer.
In addition to the combustion hazards, Tonawanda was cited for obstructed emergency exit routes and a defective exit door. In the event of an emergency, obstructed exits could cause confusion and lead to more injuries and possibly death.
Emergencies should be rare in any workplace, but the right procedures could help save a life. If your employer is violating your rights by forcing you to work in unsafe conditions, call Spevack Law Firm today. Our workers’ comp attorneys fight for the worker, and our knowledge could make a critical difference in your case.
[Did You Know: Workers in the aluminum, graphite, electrical and construction industries have the highest risk of coke gas exposure.]
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