Federal officials plan on fining two companies for workplace safety violations in an oil storage tank explosion that killed a pair of welders. Northeast Energy Management Inc. will have to pay a penalty of $159,390 and Huntley & Huntley Inc. will be fined $70,000 for the blast last year at a well site near Cheswick, in Indiana Township, Allegheny County, according to OSHA.
Two Northeast Energy employees were killed in the blast. The metal tank exploded after it heated up, causing oil vapor to fill the tank. The welders, who were there to repair pinhole leaks in the 5-ton tank, were killed when a spark ignited that vapor, causing the tank to rocket over 100-foot-tall trees and land about 220 feet away in the woods.
The tank ad held oil that was brought to the surface along with gas the well produced. The federal sanctions follow a penalty levied on one of the companies by state regulators. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in October imposed a $32,000 penalty against Huntley & Huntley, calling it part of a consent order and agreement to resolve violations of the Oil and Gas Act and the Solid Waste Management Act.
DEP officials said the blast damaged the well head and resulted in a spill of oil and brine. According to OSHA, Northeast Energy of Indiana failed to provide flame-retardant clothing or to ensure the tank being welded was clear of flammable material. OSHA issues a serious citation 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. According to OSHA, Huntley, in Monroeville, was cited for not ensuring that Northeast had suitably trained the welders and supervisors. Robert Szymanski, director of OSHA’s area office in Pittsburgh, stated:
These companies did not ensure that proper welding procedures were followed, resulting in this tragic loss of life. OSHA remains committed to holding employers legally responsible when they fail to adhere to federal law and compromise the safety of workers.
Northeast was cited with two willful workplace-safety violations and Huntley was cited with one. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
Source: Associated Press
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