Propane Explosion Leads to Safety Fines

Friday, December 11, 2015 @ 04:12 PM gHale

For employees working with hazardous substances, an oversight can be disastrous, which was an unfortunate lesson learned by six Florida workers at a Blue Rhino propane tank refurbishing facility in Taveras who were injured during a fire.

As night-shift workers prepared tanks for paint removal in a storage yard on July 29, 2013, a worker called in a forklift to move some tanks. The forklift was not explosion-proof, so it created a spark that ignited propane vapor and nearly 600,000 pounds of propane. A fireball swept through the storage facility, injuring six workers and severely burning four.

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Ferrellgas LP, doing business as Blue Rhino, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) signed a settlement agreement Dec. 7 that resulted in the affirmation of nine serious and six other-than-serious citations.

Blue Rhino agreed to pay penalties totaling $52,000. Additionally, the agreement requires Blue Rhino to complete the abatement of all hazards within 60 days of signing the settlement.

“This settlement is an important step toward protecting these workers and ensuring that all employers are monitoring and removing hazards from the workplace,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator in the Southeast.

OSHA investigators found Blue Rhino failed to use an explosion-proof forklift in an area where employees were actively venting propane from tanks; failed to follow process safety management standards for the individual propane tanks amassed in the storage yard; failed to provide process safety management training for employees on propane hazard alarms; and failed to ensure workers used personal protective equipment.

Blue Rhino distributes propane at 875 U.S. locations. The company also designs and markets barbecue grills, outdoor heaters, mosquito traps and outdoor appliances. Founded in 1939 and based in Overland Park, Kansas, Blue Rhino is a subsidiary of Ferrellgas Partners LP.