ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Two employees were injured following an explosion at Indianhead Explorations LLC, doing business as Indianhead Biomass Services, permanently disabling one employee and causing the other to suffer a leg injury. Following the March 2014 incident, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the employer with two willful and seven serious safety violations.
The workers were making modifications to the wood piping that supplied the gas and the gas heat exchangers by cutting into the gas supply pipe with a torch when the residual gas ignited inside the pipe and exploded due to the pressure.
'This incident could have been prevented if the employer established and implemented necessary safety measures to ensure that the pipe was properly vented to release the heat and pressure that builds up inside the pipe,' said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville. 'The employer's lack of safety procedures endangered all workers at this facility and resulted in one employee being permanently disabled.'
OSHA cited the company for willful violations for exposing employees to amputation hazards from a lack of machine guarding and allowing two boom cranes to be in operation when they were not annually inspected and had deficiency notices for defective brakes and load cables. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
The serious violations were cited for exposing employees to flying debris by not having machine guarding on several pieces of equipment. Additionally, the employer: allowed workers to use a compressed oxygen cylinder with a damaged and inoperable regulator gauge; failed to clean, ventilate or test the pipe and tanks of the wood gas cooling supply system prior to use; and failed to provide a vent or opening for the release of built-up pressure and heat while using a cutting torch. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Indianhead Biomass Services, a solid waste disposal facility and processing plant that employs approximately 40 workers, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission. OSHA is proposing $93,300 in penalties.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, fatal work injuries in Florida accounted for 218 of the 4,628 fatal work injuries* reported nationally in 2012. Additional details are available at http://www.bls.gov/.
To ask questions; obtain compliance assistance; file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Jacksonville Area Office at 904-232-2895.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.