The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited NDK Crystals Inc. in Belvedere, Ill., with fines of $510,000 for alleged egregious willful and serious violations of federal workplace safety standards following an explosion at the company’s crystal manufacturing building that took the life of a truck driver parked at a nearby service station. Workers at this facility were exposed to hazards that created a dangerous environment.
“The employer knowingly operated high pressure vessels even after being warned of the potential for a catastrophic failure due to material design and fabrication defects,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. “This simply is unacceptable, and OSHA will use the full extent of the law to ensure the company is held accountable for its actions.”
Following its investigation, OSHA cited NDK Crystals with seven willful and five serious violations. The willful violations, one for each of seven individual high pressure vessels, involved the company’s continued operation of these high-quality quartz production vessels even though it knew the vessels were susceptible to explosion and catastrophic failure as a result of defective design and fabrication. Willful violations are those committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for legal requirements, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
The serious violations include failing to evaluate the building for a catastrophic event; failing to have an emergency evacuation program; failing to implement a hazard communication program; and a lack of personal protective equipment assessment and training certification. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its 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.