The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited M.S. Walker Inc. for 26 alleged willful, serious and other-than-serious violations of safety and health standards at its Somerville, Mass., facility. The blender and distributor of alcoholic beverages faces a total of $147,600 in proposed penalties.

"The most serious hazard found here was the lack of adequate ventilation for the plant's rectifying room in which large quantities of flammable ethyl alcohol were blended," said Paul Mangiafico, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. "Inadequate ventilation can allow a buildup of flammable vapors, resulting in a fire or explosion."

Other fire-related hazards identified during OSHA's inspection included alcohol blending tanks that were improperly vented, uncovered or improperly covered; improperly tested tanks and piping used to store or process flammable liquids; improper control of ignition sources; using open buckets to catch leaking ethanol; inadequate or unmarked exit routes; and an inadequate fire-suppression system.

Also identified during the inspection were a lack of procedures and employee training to prevent the startup of machinery during maintenance; respirator deficiencies, including the lack of a written respirator program; lack of an emergency response program and employee training for chemical spills; untrained forklift operators and uninspected forklifts; lack of hazard communication training; and various electrical hazards.

As a result, OSHA has issued M.S. Walker Inc. one willful citation, with a proposed fine of $63,000, for the inadequate ventilation, and 24 serious citations, with $83,700 in fines for the remaining items. The company also has been issued one other-than-serious citation with a $900 fine for not keeping separate OSHA illness-and-injury logs for each company workplace.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. Serious citations are issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

M.S. Walker has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission