Federal workplace safety regulators have proposed fining a Waukegan plant just under $1.6 million following a May explosion that killed four people.
AB Specialty Silicones was cited for 12 willful federal safety violations, according to a statement from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. OSHA, a branch of the U.S. Department of Labor, placed the manufacturer of silicon products in its enforcement program for “severe” violators.
Michelle Penman, an account manager at AB Specialty Silicones, said in an email that the company had cooperated with the investigation and was now reviewing the citations.
"It is important to recognize the scope of the OSHA report goes beyond the elements that contributed to the tragic explosion," she wrote. "Our internal investigation, as well as the fire marshal’s report, confirmed the incident was in fact an accident, and there was no willful intent involved."
The plant’s electrical equipment didn’t meet OSHA standards, according to the OSHA statement. AB Specialty Silicones also moved flammable liquids using forklifts powered by liquid propane, driving them around areas where employees processed volatile liquids and gases, “creating the potential for ignition.”
The explosion occurred at 9:30 p.m. May 3 while nine people were working in the plant. It set off a fire to which more than 100 firefighters and paramedics responded.
Loren Sweatt, principal deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in the OSHA statement that the company ignored safety requirements and so “created an unsafe work environment with deadly consequences."
The company has 15 business days to pay the fine, request a conference with the local OSHA director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.
Manufactured under the brand name Andisil, the company’s specialty silicon chemical raw materials are used in a variety of industries, including personal care, chemical manufacturing, and dentistry and medicine.