September 21, 2020 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Toxic Fumes Cause Employee Fatality

An employee from Creative Multicare Inc. died after inhaling a toxic substance—lacquer thinner—while refinishing a bathtub

The employee had been working with paint thinner at a Hampton Place Apartments in Perry, Georgia, on October 7, 2019. A citation from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated that the thinner contained a chemical concentration “much greater than the allowable peak exposure.”

Among OSHA’s findings in its investigation of Creative Multicare, a carpet restoration, plumbing, and resurfacing contractor, were:

  • exposing employees to safety and health hazards (among them, exposure to a concentration of toluene several times above permissible exposure limits),
  • failure to provide areas for employees to flush chemicals from their eyes/body in case of an emergency,
  • failure to provide employees with flame-retardant clothing when working with highly flammable substances,
  • Improperly labeling chemical mixtures,
  • failure to adequately protect employees,
  • negligence in assessing the danger and hazards inherent in the use of chemicals.

The OSHA citation read, in part, “The hazard assessment was deficient because it did not evaluate the need for chemical goggle or a face shield for employees using hazardous liquid chemicals.”

Regarding a penalty

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported that “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied a $183,127 penalty against Creative Multicare Inc. following an investigation that revealed the employee ‘suffered fatal injuries after inhaling lacquer thinner.’”

“Employers must be vigilant in identifying and eliminating recognized safety and health hazards when allowing employees to work with hazardous chemicals,” said OSHA Acting Atlanta-East Area Office Director William Cochran. “Employers that implement robust safety programs have a greater chance of ensuring their employees remain safe and healthy each day.”

A similar past incident and another OSHA citation

AJC also reported that Stockbridge-based Creative Multicare had been cited by OSHA in another employee fatality incident in February 2011, involving the employee inhaling paint thinner. In that incident, AJC reported that “A medical examiner found that the employee was exposed to more than 47 times the OSHA standard amount of methylene chloride. In that incident, the company was cited for five serious violations.”

View the OSHA citation.

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