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Welder Killed in Storage Tank Explosion

Friday, August 1, 2014

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One worker is dead and three are injured after a storage tank exploded during welding work at a fish processing plant in Mississippi, authorities say.

The explosion claimed the life of Jerry Lee Taylor II, 25. Taylor had been making repairs on top of a tank at Omega Protein Inc.'s Moss Point, MS, facility when the vessel exploded at 9:30 a.m. local time Monday (July 28), Fire Chief Tommy Posey said.

The company has experienced other employee deaths, including that of a welder, 24, in April 2012, records show.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.

Screengrab via Fox10tv.com

A 25-year-old worker  was killed and three others were injured when the storage tank they were welding exploded. The tank is at Omega Protein's plant in Moss Point, MS.

The Moss Point facility operates a fish processing plant and a wholly owned shipyard. It is also used for routine maintenance and vessel refurbishment on Omega Protein's menhaden fishing vessels.

Three Injured 

Reports varied on the location of the three other workers when the explosion happened.

According to Fox10tv.com, two of the men were on the ground and the third was on scaffolding.

But the fiancée of one victim told SunHerald.com that two of the men had been welding the bottom of the tank's exterior and the third worker was on top of the tank with Taylor.

The three injured workers were taken to a local hospital; two were treated and released, and one was reported in fair condition after surgery, SunHerald.com reported. 

Plant Temporarily Closed

The company did not respond Thursday (July 31) to a request for comment.

However, Ben Landry, director of public affairs at Omega Protein, told SunHerald.com that the plant would remain closed until "authorities say otherwise."

"The plant is not operating until all agencies, local, state and federal, complete their investigation and tell us the plant can be reopened," he said..

"We are just trying to piece together what happened and what led to the explosion. Omega Protein's thoughts and prayers are with the workers and their families."

Jerry Lee Taylor II
obits.al.com

Jerry Lee Taylor II was working on top of the tank when it exploded.

Landry told the newspaper there was not any significant damage to the plant or loss of product inventory.

Headquartered in Houston, TX, Omega Protein also has a fish processing plant in Abbeville, LA; a specialty dairy protein production facility in Chicago, IL; and a Health and Science Center food grade facility in Reedville, VA, where the company refines, bleaches, fractionates and deodorizes its menhaden fish oil.

Lengthy OSHA Record

According to a search of OSHA records, the Moss Point facility was inspected Jan. 15 after receiving safety and health complaints. The company was cited for two serious violations related to sanitation and machine requirements. Omega Protein paid $3,340 in penalties, reduced from $5,568.

In April 2012, a 24-year-old worker was killed when he was caught in a conveyor at the Moss Point plant, according to OSHA's records. He was welding a cover for the conveyor when it became operational.

OSHA cited the company for 18 serious violations and four other-than-serious violations. The company paid a $50,000 penalty, reduced from $79,200.

The Virginia facility was inspected by OSHA seven times between 2004 and 2009. Four of those inspections were launched after complaints; six inspections resulted in citations, OSHA records show.

CSB Hot Work Hazards
CSB

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has been trying to raise awareness about the dangers of welding and other “hot work” on tanks. The board issued a 2010 Safety Bulletin on the topic.

Fox10tv.com reported that three people were killed In 2011 when an Omega Protein fishing boat collided with a container ship. A preliminary investigation from the U.S. Coast Guard pointed to malfunctions on the fishing boat.

2 Plan Lawsuit

Two of the injured workers, Clay Davis and Lloyd McGill, told WLOX News they were planning to file a lawsuit against Omega Protein.

Their attorney, Jesse Mitchell, said, "They want to make sure this doesn't happen to anybody else, and yes, a lawsuit is one of the ways to make that happen."

Davis told the news channel that the tank "came off the ground about 12 inches."

"It was a lot of fear at first, a lot of confusion, and now it has turned into anger, because I know that if certain things would have been handled differently, we wouldn't be sitting here right now," Davis said.

McGill said he felt depressed and suffered from flashbacks.

Danger in 'Hot Work'

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has been trying for several years to raise awareness about the dangers of welding, cutting and other so-called “hot work” activities around tanks.

In February 2010 CSB issued a Safety Bulletin aimed at preventing worker deaths during hot work in and around tanks.

Just a few months later, a welder was killed instantly and another was injured when a 10,800-gallon tank exploded at DuPont's Yerkes Plant in Tonawanda, NY. CSB concluded that DuPont failed to monitor the tank interior and the build-up of flammable vapor were ignited by welding work.

Three workers in Arkansas died in May 2012 when vapors inside an abandoned containment vessel exploded as they were cutting it apart.

The following month, two workers in California were dismantling an oil tank they thought was empty when it exploded, fatally launching one of the men 50 feet into the air and over 100 feet from the site.

   

Tagged categories: Explosions; Fatalities; OSHA; Tanks; U.S. Chemical Safety Board; Welding

Comment from Steve Brunner, (8/1/2014, 8:32 AM)

Checking the air for flammable vapors and good ventilation perhaps could have avoided this tragedy.


Comment from Mike McCloud, (8/1/2014, 8:50 AM)

Ventilate, Ventilate, Ventilate!


Comment from peter gibson, (8/1/2014, 2:28 PM)

Poor guy , nobody told him about the pitfalls and hazards.


Comment from Chuck Pease, (8/1/2014, 3:46 PM)

Gas alert MTX II gas sniffer, helloooooo, vent then purge. Then active ventilation during all how work process. Along with gas sniffer checks thru out the shift. Really getting old hearing about all of the deaths in this industry. Prayers to the families. OSHA really needs to put some teeth in its bite.


Comment from Billy Russell, (8/2/2014, 2:59 AM)

Prayers first for this young man and his family. I did not read enough information about this incident to determine if a Gas alert monitor would of helped him at all. I was shocked to read that no damage or loss of inventory to the plant was even mentioned by anyone in that plant, a few lessons in PR is clearly needed on that one for sure, LOTO or rather a lack of caused an earlier death in 2012 they might wanna think about a new HSE manager for sure but the information about what happened, and in what environment contained in this article is to vague, The mention of a lawsuit by 2 clearly tells me this welder didn't have the best people around him for sure.


Comment from Chuck Pease, (8/5/2014, 7:54 PM)

Billy as sniffer would have alerted everyone that there was an atmosphere that exceeded the LEL. (lower explosive limits for flammable gases. However without more information concerning the event it truly is hard to know what went wrong.


Comment from Billy Russell, (8/5/2014, 8:17 PM)

Chuck, agreed sir I use LEL Monitors every day.


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