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OSHA Fines Saia Motor Freight Line after Explosion Injures Four Workers

Four employees were hospitalized after a flash fire caused by a propane forklift.

An explosion at a St. Louis trucking terminal left four employees hospitalized – two of whom were critically injured.

The Aug. 6, 2014 explosion at Saia Motor Freight Line LLC was caused when two forklift operators were changing a propane tank on a liquefied petroleum gas-powered forklift inside a freight trailer. A loose coupling connection allowed liquid propane to leak, vaporize and ignite, resulting in a flash fire, OSHA found.

OSHA cited Saia Motor with one willful and 11 serious safety and health violations and proposed penalties of $119,000.

A 54-year-old lead forklift operator and a 25-year-old newly hired worker with a month’s experience with propane forklifts suffered critical burns, another worker sustained burns to his legs while he helped extinguish his coworkers’ clothing, and a fourth worker using a forklift nearby also received burns.

"Workers must be trained to avoid deadly combinations of flammable fuels, ignition sources and confined spaces, which allow vapors to ignite quickly," said Bill McDonald, OSHA's area director in St. Louis. "This incident should remind all employers that using forklifts is one of the hazards workers may face daily."

OSHA issued a willful violation for Saia’s use of several powered industrial trucks with defective or bypassed safety switches.

The administration issued 11 serious violations for not: evacuating the work area after flammable gas was released; not requiring forklift propane containers be switched in an adequately ventilated area; mounting gas containers on the cylinder indexing pin correctly; training workers on extremely flammable gas hazards; requiring hand and eye protection when changing cylinders; labeling hazardous chemicals in the maintenance; and training powered industrial truck operators. Several electrical safety hazards also were found.

Duluth, Ga.-based Saia Motor employs about 8,000 workers, 150 of whom perform cross-dock operations at the St. Louis terminal.

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