In August, Bruce Hall, an employee of Rick’s Auto Body, died from burns suffered when static electricity caused solvent fumes to ignite.
“In this case, the employer disregarded necessary safety measures, placing employees in harm’s way,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Billings in a press release announcing the fines. “The inspection, prompted by a workplace fire, identified the improper storage of flammable liquids at the facility and inadequate grounding and bonding methods for the transfer of flammable liquids.”
According to OSHA, the serious violations identified during the investigation include improper storage of flammable and combustible materials, use of storage containers not approved for flammable goods and failure to store overhead materials securely. The employer was also cited for failing to label emergency exits, ensure adequate controls for leakage or the escape of flammable materials, and ground electrical equipment around combustible materials. Additionally, the site was improperly ventilated and lacked sufficient fire sprinkler systems, endangering individuals in an emergency. A serious citation is issued when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The shop’s owner, Rick Booth, said they met with OSHA officials in Billings over the summer, who agreed to reduce the fine. Booth said they have paid the fine, and no longer recycle paint at the shop. He said they now work with Safety Clean, which picks up and hauls away paint waste from the shop.
Booth said he and his employees are working to remain in compliance with OSHA to ensure a similar accident never happens again.