Explosion, Injuries Bring Safety Fines

Friday, August 22, 2014 @ 05:08 PM gHale

Two employees suffered injuries in March after an explosion at Indianhead Explorations LLC, doing business as Indianhead Biomass Services, in St. Augustine, FL, permanently disabling one employee and causing the other to suffer a leg injury.

Following the incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the employer with two willful and seven serious safety violations and issued fines of $93,300. Indianhead Biomass Services is a solid waste disposal facility and processing plant that employs 40 workers.

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When the incident occurred, 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 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 did not have an annual inspection 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 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.

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