Combined Systems settles with OSHA

Contributed | Combined Systems

A federal workplace safety agency has settled with Combined Systems over safety violations found after a fire that injured five workers at the company's plant outside Jamestown.

GREENE TOWNSHIP – A Jamestown-area company that manufactures "less-lethal" ordnance will pay a fine and complete safety measures as part of a settlement with federal regulators stemming from a Feb. 14 fire that injured five workers.

Terms of the settlement with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which recently went public, calls for Combined Systems to pay $25,200 in fines in connection with a Feb. 14 fire at its Greene Township plant, a U.S. Department of Labor spokesman said.

An OSHA investigation uncovered multiple safety violations in the fire, which it said created a "chain reaction of explosions" and injured five workers.

OSHA initially proposed fines of $45,000 for 10 safety violations. The settlement requires Combined Systems to repair problems that led to all of the cited violations, said an agency spokeswoman, speaking on behalf of the Department of Labor. The spokeswoman requested that her comments be attributed to the department.

"In addition, the company agreed to enhanced abatement to improve its overall safety and health program and to prevent the reoccurrence of future incidents,’’ she said.

A message left with Combined Systems office wasn’t immediately returned late Tuesday afternoon.

Founded in 1981, the company designs, produces and markets security products for a variety of consumers, including the military and law enforcement. The company produces less-lethal weapons such as tear gas and sonic grenades, designed for riot control responders, police tactical teams, correctional officers and military units.

The violations listed in OSHA’s report included a failure to provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.’’

OSHA said a Combined Systems employee was placing explosive materials into mineral oil on the day of the incident when a flash fire occurred. OSHA said the worker and other employees nearby weren’t provided adequate protection from potential fires.

Employees in the immediate area were injured in the fire, the OSHA report said. “The initial flash fire then began a chain reaction of explosions in the production machines behind the employee,’' according to the report. “The employee and the employees in the area sustained injuries due to the fire. Means were not provided so that fire in one workstation would not propagate and ignite in the next workstation.’’

Additional violations in OSHA’s report included:

• An air press machine without proper protective guards.

• Improperly used cords or cables.

• Failure to document inspection tests on some equipment.

• Failure to complete required compliance audits in the manufacture of flash-bang grenades.

• Failure to update a hazard report listing potential exposure of employees to dangerous materials.

Herald files show Combined Systems has had at least a half-dozen accidents, dating back to 2011, that have included fires and explosions.

In 2015 a Greenville man was injured in an accident that caused a piece of shrapnel to be lodged in his shoulder. In 2013 a dozen employees were taken to a local hospitals as a precaution due to a fire. No injuries were reported.