Business / Economy

Pacific Scientific cited, fined over $293K for repeated safety violations following employee injury

Cal/OSHA investigation followed serious injury to Pacific Scientific employee in December 2016

According to a press release from the California Department of Industrial Relations Cal/OSHA Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company, an explosives manufacturer, in Hollister was cited $293,235 for multiple serious and willful accident-related workplace safety violations.

An investigation of an explosion at the company’s Hollister facility after one of its female technicians was seriously injured on Dec. 1, 2016 determined that the technician was preparing explosives in metal tubing, or Small Column Insulated Delays (SCIDs), for neutron radiation analysis. She had mounted 79 SCIDs onto aluminum support brackets attached to an aluminum metal tray. While attempting to apply tape to secure the SCIDs to the tray, 75 of the 79 tubes exploded, sending metal shrapnel in all directions, seriously injuring the technician.

Cal/OSHA inspectors determined that Pacific Scientific failed to take the steps necessary to protect the worker from explosive hazards. The willful, serious violations, according to regulartors, included the employer’s failure to:

• Protect the employee’s workstation from the explosive tubes in the holder, despite Pacific Scientific’s own manufacturing procedures that require the use of a safety shield when working with the loaded holders.

• Identify, evaluate and control hazards associated with handling the explosive tubes during their manufacture.

• Provide clear written instructions on how to mount the SCIDs safely to a metal tray for required analysis.

“This explosives manufacturer put employees at risk by failing to follow their own safety procedures, and unfortunately a worker was seriously injured,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.

As a result of the inspection following the 2016 accident, Cal/OSHA cited Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company for nine workplace safety and health violations, three of them in the willful-serious category with four serious and two general.

The release further stated that a willful violation is issued where evidence shows that the employer committed an intentional and knowing violation—as distinguished from inadvertent, accidental or ordinarily negligent—and the employer was conscious of the fact that what it was doing constituted a violation, or was aware that a hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to eliminate the hazard. A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious physical harm could result from the actual hazardous condition.

This is not the first time Pacific Scientific has been cited for neglecting workers’ safety. In a 2007 explosion accident, an employee suffered serious burns and needed to be airlifted to intensive care. Cal/OSHA issued general citations for lack of required body protection and serious citations regarding the manufacturer’s lack of a safety plan. More recently, a 2015 accident caused another serious injury. Again, Cal/OSHA citations noted a failure to identify a hazardous practice safety plan.

Repeated calls to Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company were not answered in time for publication of this story.

For more details concerning the citation and penalties go to the DIR link.

Cal/OSHA’s PSM Unit is responsible for inspecting refineries and chemical plants that handle large quantities of toxic and flammable materials. Health and safety standards enforced by the PSM Unit, including adequate worker training and participation, are intended to prevent catastrophic explosions, fires, and releases of dangerous chemicals, which could harm workers. Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California.

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]