Two western Pennsylvania companies face federal citations and fines totaling more than $229,000 in a tank repair explosion that took the lives of two workers in July.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the safety violations against Northeast Energy Management Inc., the contractor in the case, and Huntley & Huntley Inc., which owned the Murray Heirs No. 6 well site in Cheswick, where the incident occurred.
The men were welding a tank that contained flammable materials when the tank exploded. The blast ignited a second tank and massive fire at the scene and killed Kevin Henry, 46, of New Florence, PA, and Andy Yosurack Jr., 56, of Creekside, PA.
Both companies indicated Wednesday (Jan. 12) that they would appeal the citations, which were announced Tuesday (Jan. 11).
Huntley & Huntley contracted Northeast Energy to repair a leaking barrel tank at the well site “and was responsible for ensuring that Northeast Energy properly trained its workers on safe welding procedures,” OSHA said in a statement.
"These companies did not ensure that proper welding procedures were followed, resulting in this tragic loss of life," said Robert Szymanski, director of OSHA's area office in Pittsburgh, PA. "OSHA remains committed to holding employers legally responsible when they fail to adhere to federal law and compromise the safety of workers."
Tank Inspection Noted
Northeast Energy, of Indiana, PA, was cited for two willful violations involving failure to ensure that workers were welding on a thoroughly cleaned tank, and to determine whether flammable or combustible or other hazardous materials were present.
Huntley & Huntley, of Monroeville, PA, received a citation for one willful violation for allegedly failing to ensure that Northeast Energy suitably trained welders and supervisors in the safe operation of welding equipment and the safe use of the welding process.
Northeast Energy also was cited for serious violations for allegedly failing to:
· Provide workers with flame-retardant clothing protection during welding operations;
· Ensure that supervision determined the welder secured approval prior to commence welding operations; and
· Train employees in the specific procedures needed to protect themselves from hazardous chemicals.
Northeast Energy is involved in drill site preparation and reclamation. The company was assessed a proposed penalty of $159,390.
Kevin Gormley, an attorney for Northeast Energy, said Wednesday that the company would request an informal conference with OSHA to discuss the citations. He declined further comment.
Northeast Energy has two closed cases with OSHA. In 2008, the company was issued seven citations for serious violations and a $5,965 fine after an Informal Settlement. That case involved a worker scalded in a fire on a drilling rig in September 2007.
In 2009, the company was issued one “other-than-serious” citation (reduced from a serious citation) and a $4,000 fine after an Informal Settlement.
The company has no other open cases with OSHA.
Huntley & Huntley
Huntley & Huntley, which has no OSHA record, was assessed a penalty of $70,000. Company president Keith Mangini issued this statement Wednesday:
“While the regulatory investigations of this tragic incident are now over, it does not take away the pain and suffering of the two victims’ families. Our thoughts and prayers continue to remain with them during this difficult time.
“Huntley & Huntley’s one hundred years of overall safety performance has been exceptional, but the reality of what occurred has allowed us to reevaluate all operations and procedures to continually improve in all areas of our business.
“Huntley & Huntley does not concur with the final findings of OSHA. However, we do intend to have further dialogue with the agency to obtain a better understanding of this assessment, and will invite their consultants to assist in performing additional reviews of our established procedures.”
The company, which develops oil and gas wells, has more than 350 gas wells in western Pennsylvania.
About the Violations
According to OSHA, a willful violation reflects either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health. A serious citation involves a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.