Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Taking combustible dust regulations lightly has contributed to a heavy list of fines and forced one Florida aluminum fabricator to close its doors. According to reports by The Daily Commercial and HazardEx, Fritz Aluminum Services Inc. has been cited by OSHA with 37 safety and health violations for exposing their workers to several hazards, including combustible dust accumulation inside their Eustis, Florida facility. After receiving a complaint last September, OSHA opened an investigation into the aluminum fabricator and has since proposed penalties amounting to a total of $139,800 (with potentially more to come if the company fails to fix the problems.) Alongside financial disciplines being levied against Fritz – a manufacturer of fencing and other metal equipment – the company has been placed on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, a list which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure the manufacturer continues compliance with the law.

Fritz Aluminum Services was not only cited for failing to provide proper ventilation that would keep aluminum dust accumulation to a minimum, but also for allowing it to collect onto electrical equipment. That’s the definition of an ignition source if there ever was one. OSHA’s Tampa area director Les Grove said of the matter:

“The level of disregard for workers’ safety demonstrated by this employer is irresponsible. Although the employer knows the fire and explosion hazards associated with the accumulation of combustible dust, a choice was made to do nothing about it. It should not take a fire or explosion to implement necessary safety measures to protect employees.”

Following all combustible dust safety standards outlined by OSHA and the NFPA while implementing a housekeeping program that uses certified explosion proof vacuums could have helped avoid these issues. Because they failed to do so, Fritz Aluminum Services will now be forced to pay a six-figure penalty, indefinitely close its doors and stomach a loss of revenue until the hazards are addressed. Add to that, OSHA inspectors will be keeping a very close eye on the company once they’re allowed to re-open. It’s a miracle no one was killed or injured due to Fritz Aluminum Services’ careless disregard of combustible dust hazards, but as far as cautionary tales go, this one hurts manufacturers where it hurts most: The pocket.