PITTSBURG, Kan. -- Two Lone Star Management LLC employees were directed to use a gas-powered forklift to move pallets of fireworks and cardboard out of an explosives storage facility in Pittsburg when the gas ignited, which caused an explosion and fire. Within seconds, the trapped employees became engulfed in flames. The inferno took the life of one 28-year-old worker and left a 43-year-old co-worker to suffer with burns over 80 percent of his body and the possibility of never working again.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found nine serious safety violations at the warehouse following an investigation of the Aug. 12, 2014, incident. As a result, OSHA cited Lone Star Management, which specializes in importing and distributing Class 1 fireworks.
'Poor housekeeping, combined with using a forklift not approved for flammable environments, proved to be a deadly combination,' said Judy Freeman, OSHA's area director in Wichita. 'Fireworks are meant to be fun, but by their nature, are highly explosive. This employer knew the hazards and how to protect staff. The families of these workers should not suffer because a company did not show a commitment to worker safety.'
OSHA's investigation found that the company failed to paint explosive storage containers red with appropriate warnings and stored unauthorized materials, including cardboard, in the explosives' containers.
Lone Star Management also failed to develop, implement and maintain a written hazard communication program to train workers about hazardous workplace materials and provide necessary handling safety precautions. Additionally, fire extinguishers were not mounted and accessible and employees were not trained to use them. The company also failed to have a competent person on-site to enforce safety standards for magazine storage.
OSHA has proposed fines of $55,000 for the nine serious violations. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known existed.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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 Wichita Area Office at 316-269-6646.
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.