Local
3:37 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

OSHA fines Tonawanda Coke

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Tonawanda Coke after an explosion at the company's River Road plant, in the Town of Tonawanda, Jan. 31, 2014.

Outside Tonawanda Coke.
Outside Tonawanda Coke.
Credit WBFO News file photo

An investigation by OSHA determined faulty equipment caused coke oven gas to build up and then be released into an enclosed area where it ignited. The explosion collapsed a brick wall and injured three employees.

OSHA's area director, Michael Scime says, Tonawanda Coke was issued 15 safety violations.

"The message that I really would like to convey is that accidents are predictable and preventable. And this is certainly the case with the explosion at Tonawanda Coke. Had the company monitored and maintained their flare system this explosion would never have occurred."

Scime said, conditions in the plant exposed workers to potential amputations, falls, crushing injuries and injury caused by blocked safety exits. OSHA levied fines totaling $ 161,100. Tonawanda Coke has 15-days to comply, or contest the findings.

Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins has issued a response to the OSHA violations:

“These violations against Tonawanda Coke are frightening but unfortunately not surprising.  They represent a persistent pattern of reckless operations by Tonawanda Coke that threaten the health and safety of employees and local residents.  Given the severity of violations cited by OSHA, it is a wonder that more people inside the plant haven’t been hurt. Repeat violations indicate that Tonawanda Coke clearly isn’t learning from its mistakes.  It’s my hope that OSHA continues to keep a close eye on the facility to keep them accountable for their actions and as a means to force the company to be a responsible employer and neighbor.”