Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kleen Energy Plant Construction Firms Face $16.6M in Fines

From an OSHA press release
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today cited three construction companies and 14 site contractors for 371 alleged workplace safety violations, and proposed $16.6 million dollars in penalties, following an investigation into the causes of February's deadly natural gas explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems LLC power plant construction site in Middletown, Conn. The explosion took the lives of six workers and injured 50 others.

The millions of dollars in fines levied pale in comparison to the value of the six lives lost and numerous other lives disrupted," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "However, the fines and penalties reflect the gravity and severity of the deadly conditions created by the companies managing the work at the site. No operation and no deadline is worth cutting common sense safety procedures. Workers should not sacrifice their lives for their livelihoods."

On Feb. 7, a gas blow operation was being performed in which flammable natural gas was pumped under high pressure through new fuel gas lines to remove debris. During this operation, an extremely large amount of natural gas was vented into areas where it could not easily disperse. Welding and other work was being performed nearby, creating an extremely dangerous situation. The explosion occurred when the gas contacted an ignition source.

These employers blatantly disregarded well-known and accepted industry procedures and their own safety guidelines in conducting the gas blow operation in a manner that exposed workers to fire and explosion hazards," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "We see this time and time again across industries when companies deliberately ignore safety precautions in the interest of completing jobs quickly, and workers end up being killed or seriously hurt."

In connection with the explosion, OSHA has cited O&G Industries Inc., the project's general contractor; Keystone Construction and Maintenance Inc., which was in charge of the piping and oversaw the gas blow; and Bluewater Energy Services Inc., the commissioning and startup contractor for the plant.

All three companies were cited for performing the gas blow procedure in a way that exposed workers to fire and explosion hazards, including the configuration of the vent pipes in close proximity to scaffolding and other structures, and the failure to remove non-essential personnel from the area. Citations were also issued for failing to install and use electrical equipment in accordance with its listing and labeling, allowing welding work during the gas blows and failing to train employees to recognize hazards associated with gas blows.

O&G has been issued 119 willful, 17 serious and three other-than-serious citations with penalties totaling $8,347,000. Keystone Construction and Maintenance was issued 94 willful, 16 serious and one other-than-serious citation with fines of $6,686,000. Bluewater Energy Services was issued 12 willful citations and eight serious citations totaling $896,000.

Citations were also given to a number of subcontractors, none of them from Middletown. Go
HERE to view all of the citations and recommended fines issued today to each company.

O&G has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed fines to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the findings to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


Paul Torop said...

Will this lead to criminal prosecution?

BCFire said...

Most OSHA fines usually do not lead to prosecution, unless specific laws were broken or gross negligence is found to be the cause. The gas blow method used that day was not required to follow specific workplace safety precautions. That has since changed, and the method will no longer be used to clean gas piping. They can however assist in personnal injury lawsuits. The 16 million in fines is absolutely huge. Most workplace violations result in moderate fines, which can be reduced by compliance hearings and corrective actions taken to increase worker safety. This fine will more than likely never be reduced due to the violations found and injuries the explosion caused.