Tonawanda News

April 5, 2013

Worker injured at plant

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — First responders reported to Tonawanda Coke Thursday morning to treat a plant employee who was injured on the job. 

Shawn Kauffman, of Sheridan Park Fire Hall, said firefighters assisted town paramedics Thursday at about 8:30 a.m. after a plant employee fell down a flight of metal stairs. 

“He was hurt pretty seriously,” Kauffman said. “They had to give him medication at the scene.”

The rescue team brought the man down the next flight of stairs using rope, Kauffman said, and the unidentified 56-year-old man was taken to Erie County Medical Center for treatment. 

Worker safety has previously been an issue at the plant, which, last week, was found guilty of violating two federal environmental laws. 

In 2010, The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the plant $48,500 for 14 serious violations of workplace health and safety standards. 

OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards — which the employer knew, or should have known about. 

OSHA’s citations included deficiencies in the plant’s respiratory program, the use of personal protective equipment and industrial hygiene.

Specifically, the plant did not conduct all required monitoring and perform all required medical evaluations for workers exposed to coke oven emissions, allowed coke spillage to be shoveled into a heated oven, did not supply positive pressure filtered air to all work cabs, failed to maintain a machine in good working order, did not label containers of coke-contaminated clothing, and allowed food and beverages to be consumed in an area with visible accumulations of coke oven emissions.

And in 2011, OHSA fined the plant again for $4,500 after another incident in which a welder, working for another company, stepped into an open steam pit and suffered second and third-degree burns to his body. 

Reports indicated that he was able to quickly pull himself out of the pit and remove his pants as a coworker went to find help.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150