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Safety citation portions vacated, others affirmed at pharma plant

An administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission on Wednesday vacated in part and affirmed in part violations following a 2015 fatality at a pharmaceuticals plant in South Easton, Massachusetts, that alerted federal safety investigators to other safety issues.

In 2015, a truck driver on site fell off his truck and was killed. The parties in Secretary of Labor v. Pharmasol Corp. do not dispute the incident and records state both “agree that determining how (the worker) died or what would have prevented his death is not the purpose of these proceedings,” according to the ruling.

What was discovered in a U.S Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation were six violations on site that put workers in danger, according to the 60-page ruling covering in total two citations, one serious and one other than serious.

Of the one serious violation that was dismissed was the allegation that Pharmasol “violated the general duty clause by exposing its employees to the hazard of being struck by or crushed by what the parties refer to as ‘horizontal rack members’” on vehicles. Pharmasol argued that “the general duty clause does not apply to the condition set forth in the citation because there is a specific standard addressing … powered industrial trucks,” adding “that the Secretary failed to show employees faced underride hazards at its facility.”

The administrative law judge “finds that the powered industrial truck standard does not preclude citation pursuant to the general duty clause for underride hazards, but the Secretary did not establish the presence of the condition at Pharmasol,” according to the ruling.

In vacating only one part of the first serious citation, Pharmasol was fined $6,300 after three items were affirmed. The violations included allegations that Pharmasol’s failed to ensure that its “aisles were maintained clear of obstacles for the safe operation of powered industrial trucks,” according to documents. Other allegations that were affirmed dealt with storage of materials on site and training programs.

The second other-than-serious violation also considered training issues on site and was affirmed with no penalty assessed, according to the ruling.

The administrative law judge’s decision became a final order of the commission Thursday.

Officials with Pharmasol could not immediately be reached for comment.