Feds hit Houston oil pipe firm with $1m safety violation fine

HOUSTON - What is it with the oil industry around Houston? In the latest instance of unsafe operations there, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit Piping Technology and Products with a $1.013 million fine.

The firm, OSHA's area office said, willingly exposed its workers to risk of amputations. Acting on an anonymous tip from a company worker, OSHA inspectors found 13 willful violations, with a fine of $70,000 each, including unguarded presses, no guards on machines for cutting I-beams, and pipes and no brakes on overhead cranes.

Another 17 serious violations included: No guards on handsaws, improper safeguards on machines, no proper guarding of machinery and grinders, dangerous electrical openings, no fall protection, and failure to lock out all sources of hazardous energy to six machines before starting maintenance. Proposed fines total $103,000.

And the firm tried to cover up its violations, but OSHA caught that, too: It cited the company for many of the same hazards four times since 1986 and fined it a total of $115, 500 in 2004-2005, OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels said.

"Piping Technology deliberately exposed its workers who operate band saws and other dangerous machinery to amputation hazards while misleading OSHA investigators about the use of these machines," Michaels added.

The company's record is so bad that OSHA placed it on its Severe Violators Enforcement Program list, opening it to further, repeated future agency inspections to ensure Piping obeys the law, Michaels said. That program "focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations," the agency explained.

"Repeatedly ignoring the law while risking workers' lives and providing misleading information to federal investigators will not be tolerated," said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in a prepared statement. "Employers who endanger the lives and limbs of their employees must be held accountable."

 

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