Fox Valley Systems cited for 26 OSHA violations

CARY – Fox Valley Systems was cited Thursday for 26 safety violations in connection with the March explosion that left three workers with serious injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released its detailed findings of the March 6 incident at the Cary paint plant, 640 Industrial Drive, a marking and striping company that does traffic and athletic field painting. The report includes six willful violations and recommends $262,000 in fines.

OSHA found multiple violations of its safety management standards for facilities that work with highly hazardous chemicals and hit the Cary plant with two willful violations for a lack of easily accessible exits.

With clothing in flames, one of the employees had to crawl under conveyor belts and past a blocked exit in order to force open a door latched shut and blocked from the outside by snow, the report says.

Workers also were operating trucks powered by propane in the production area – another willful violation, according to the report.

In all, six of the violations were considered willful – those found to be committed with a knowing disregard or indifference to employee safety and health.

The other willful violations included a lack of written, safe operating procedures; equipment that wasn't up to standards; and a failure to conduct regular equipment inspections.

The report says the March explosion occurred when "flammable vapors ignited in the production facility, resulting in an explosion and fire that caused extensive damage to the building and the interconnected aerosol-propellant charging rooms."

The three injured individuals suffered burns that ranged from first- to third-degree, OSHA spokeswoman Rhonda Burke said.

The blocked exits contributed to the injuries, the report says.

A company that receives violations has up to 15 days from the time the violations are sanctioned to either contest them or reach a settlement with OSHA.

If they choose to contest, the case goes in front of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. That process could take several months to reach a ruling, Burke said.

OSHA has placed Fox Valley Systems in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which subjects the company to further inspections if OSHA has "reasonable grounds" to believe there are similar violations.

A separate inspection on May 16 resulted in an additional 11 violations and fines of $22,800. That report was issued in August. The fines are yet to be paid and remain in the "negotiation phase," Burke said.

Fox Valley Systems, an employer of 23 people, hasn't reopened since the explosion.

The Cary Fire Protection District hasn't yet determined its own cause of the explosion. Its investigation is ongoing.

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