Nevada Aerosol Recycling Plant Fined $112,800 following Fatal Explosion

July 17, 2002
The Nevada State Occupational Health and Safety Board upheld eight safety violations issued against Depressurized Technologies International Inc. by the state

An investigation of the Miden, Nev., company was instituted following an explosion in September that literally blew the roof off the facility and killed employee Jaime Gonzalez, who left a wife and four children in Mexico to work at the facility.

The DIR originally proposed fines of $144,000, an amount the board reduced. Company owner Walter Gonzalez (no relation to Jaime Gonzalez), requested the reduction, saying he was not aware of any safety problems. Investigators testified Gonzalez was aware of and understood the workplace dangers that led to the explosion, and indicated the violations are classified as "willful."

"The employer showed an intentional disregard for the standards," Joan Tiearney, a specialist for the Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement Section of the Nevada Division of Industrial Relations, told the board. "He had the knowledge. He knew what he needed to do. He didn't do it."

According to investigators, a spark from a forklift ignited butane and propane fumes released when workers punctured aerosol cans by using a hammer to puncture them with metal spikes, despite warnings on the cans not to puncture them.

Noel Manoukian, Gonzalez' attorney, said the company has not decided if it will challenge the fines. He noted it is a small company and it has a perfect safety record.

"There's a total absence of any prior accidents including the company's six to seven-year history [at its other facility] in Morgan Hill, Calif.," he said. He added he thought the company received a fair hearing from the occupational health

The family of Jaime Gonzalez and the other injured workers and their families also have filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court in Reno seeking damages.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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