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Pipeline Contractor Fined In 2 Cases, 1 Fatal

Monday, June 6, 2011

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The main contractor on Nevada’s Ruby Pipeline project is facing $36,000 in federal fines and multiple safety violations in the death of one worker in December and the injury of seven others in October.

Precision Pipeline LLC, based in Eau Claire, WI, is protesting the citations and penalties by Nevada’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding the two accidents along the Ruby Pipeline, a $3 billion project to extend a natural gas line from Wyoming to Oregon.


 Precision Pipeline LLC

Precision Pipeline is the lead contractor on Nevada’s $3 billion Ruby Pipeline project.

The company, a union provider of pipeline maintenance and construction services to the oil and gas industry, did not respond Monday to a request for comment.

Worker Crushed in Trench

The accident on the afternoon of Dec. 7, 2010, killed Charles C. Kuhn, 61, of Dresden, OH.

Nevada OSHA said Kuhn and another worker had been performing a buffing operation on a welded joint of a 42-inch diameter gas pipeline. The section consisted of 10 80-foot pieces welded together—212,800 pounds in all, supported at various locations by wooden structures known as skids or cribbing.

Kuhn was working between the pipe and the excavation; the other worker was on the other side. OSHA said the center of the pipe section had shifted away from the excavation due to temperature changes, and management had decided to move the section back.

To do so, workers attached two Caterpillar model 583T pipe layers to the pipe. As the center of the pipe was lifted, however, the ends swung away from the excavation, then back toward it, resulting in the entire section rolling and sliding into the trench—knocking Kuhn into the trench and crushing him underneath, OSHA said.

OSHA Report

The report said that the cause of the pipe falling into the trench could not be determined. Possible factors may have included the moving of skids or the pipe rotating in the slings, falling off of the skids.

Nevertheless, OSHA issued four serious safety citations against the company, with a $7,000 fine for each.

The agency alleged:

· Lack of proper communication between the side boom operators who were maneuvering the pipe and Kuhn and others on the ground;

· Failure to carry out a required training program;

· Failure to keep non-essential workers out of the so-called “fall zone”; and

· Failure by the lift director to review the plan with all workers involved in the operation.

Runaway Truck

Just six weeks earlier, seven Precision Pipeline employees on the site were injured when an employee lost control of a Stringer Truck he was driving down a steep hill, loaded with two 24,000-pound sections of pipeline.

OSHA says the pipes caught on the truck bed of a Dodge Ram 250 Super Duty King Cab on the site, pushing the Dodge about 30 yards into a D8T Cat Dozer blade. The Stringer Truck then slammed into the back of a fourth vehicle: a parked International Flatbed whose driver did not see the truck coming. The flatbed was heavily damaged, and the driver was injured and trapped in the cab.

The impact also knocked the flatbed into a Ranger ATV in front of it, and the ATV struck the adjacent personal truck of the mechanic who was working on the ATV. The mechanic was pinned underneath the flatbed on the ground; workers helped dig him out.

Finally, OSHA documents say, the two pipes being transported “were launched from the trailer of the Stringer Truck and flew approximately 120 feet over the next hill, hitting a laborer who did not see the pipe flying at him through the air. The employee was hit by the pipe and throw[n] approximately 30-35 feet into the air and approximately 80 feet west, landing in the trench that was previously dug for the pipe.”

Two employees were flown to a hospital in Salt Lake City, UT, and five others were treated at a local hospital and released. One of the victims worked for another subcontractor on the site.

Nevada OSHA issued one serious citation and one “other than serious” citation in that case and fined the company a total of $8,000.

The report noted that another pipe installation site used bulldozers to lower trucks down grades that were not as steep as those at Elko, reported the Elko Daily Free Press.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Pipeline; Pipelines

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