Woburn-based 3-D printing company, Powderpart Inc., was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one willful and nine serious violations of workplace safety standards. According to OSHA documents, the inspection followed an explosion and fire on Nov. 5, 2013, which inflicted third-degree burns on a company employee.
The Andover Area Office discovered that the company had failed to prevent and protect its employees from the fire and explosion hazards of reactive, combustible* metal powders, such as titanium and aluminum alloys, which are used in the company’s three-dimensional printing process.
“The fire and explosion hazards when working with titanium and aluminum are established, particularly when the materials are in powder form,” Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA’s area director for Middlesex and Essex counties said in a statement. “Just as it’s easier to start a campfire with kindling than with logs, it’s easier for a metal fire to start when you’re working with metal powder that is as fine as confectioner’s sugar.”
According to OSHA’s report, Powderpart had failed to dispose of known sources of potential ignition and follow pertinent instructions from equipment manufacturers, and did not alert the Woburn Fire Department to the workplace presence of hazardous materials. In addition Powderpart had an employee workstation and flammable powders next to an area with explosion potential.
Aside from the fire and explosion hazards, the company had employed the use of unapproved electrical equipment; electrical equipment and wiring that were unsuitable for a hazardous location; failure to train employees on chemical hazards and safeguards; failure to supply employees with all necessary protective clothing, equipment and training; no written respiratory protection program; and failure to post danger tags in potentially explosive areas, according to the OSHA investigation.
OSHA administrator Robert Hooper stated that “Establishments that use metal powders in this new technology need to scrutinize their processes and take steps to prevent and protect their employees from fire and explosion hazards that arise with these materials.” He continued by saying “The market for 3-D printed parts made from titanium and aluminum alloys includes the automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, dental and jewelry industries. Basic safety measures must be incorporated into this 21st century technology, so that it can grow without harming the employees who are building this new industry.”
The company now faces one willful violation, which carries a $14,000 penalty, for failure to have any Class D metal fire extinguishers. OSHA determined that Powderpart knew that titanium and aluminum fires cannot be extinguished with a regular fire extinguisher or with water, and knew that its manufacturing process presented potential fire hazards; however, there were no Class D metal fire extinguishers on-site during the explosion and fire. The company was also issued nine serious violations, totalling $50,400 in penalties.
When companies fail to ensure their workers’ safety and wellbeing, they ultimately become liable, should an incident occur [or not]. OSHA has become incredibly strict about enforcing safety standards across all occupational industries in the United States, however employers and companies still manage to not adhere to those standards and expose their employees to serious health and safety risks.
If you or a loved one was injured as a result of an employer’s or company’s negligence, you may not only be entitled to filing a workers’ compensation claim, but also a premises liability claim. It is best advised in these types of situations, given the complexity and confusion these cases tend to generate, to consult with a legal professional about your options and rights. At the law offices of Altman & Altman our team of seasoned attorneys has nearly 50 years of experience handling all types of workers’ compensation and personal injury claims and we have helps clients across the Commonwealth obtain millions of dollars in compensatory damages and settlements.
We understand the emotional and financial stress an injury places on a family, and we stand ready to help guide you through this difficult time. Call or email our office today to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation with one of our esteemed lawyers.
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