OSHA Issues $71,000 In Proposed Fines Following Fatal Explosion, Fire

May 6, 2002
On Dec. 17, when most people are planning holiday celebrations, the family of one Massachusetts man planned his funeral while OSHa investigators examined his employer's safety measures.

On Dec. 17, when most people are planning holiday celebrations, the family of one Massachusetts man planned his funeral.

The man, a welder at TS Truck Service Inc., a commercial fuel delivery firm in Worcester, Mass., was welding on top of a delivery truck's fuel tank, when flammable vapors inside the tank ignited. The resulting explosion created a fire that engulfed him.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited TS Truck Service Inc. for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to protect workers against the hazards of flammable vapors during cutting and welding operations and issued $71,250 in proposed fines last week.

OSHA inspectors determined the company allowed the welding to proceed without first ensuring that the tank and its piping had been cleaned thoroughly enough to eliminate any flammable materials or substances which could produce flammable vapors.

"This is a critical safety precaution that was not followed even though it was required and the employer was well aware of it," said Ronald E. Morin, OSHA area director for central Massachusetts. "As a result, we are citing this item as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation, and proposing a $49,000 fine."

An additional $22,250 in fines is proposed for seven alleged serious violations, including: failure to have an authorized person inspect the work area for fire hazards before welding; failing to properly cover or locate flammable and combustible materials at least 35 feet from welding operations; not having suitable fire extinguishing equipment present and immediately available for use during welding; failure to suitably train workers; electrical outlets, lighting and fans that were not approved for a hazardous location; no fall protection for an employee working atop a 10-foot, six-inch high truck tank; and inadequate training for forklift operators.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A serious violation is one where there is a substantial probability that death or serious harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

TS Truck Service Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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