The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 40 federal citations and a $221,200 fine to a Texas boat repair facility in a confined-space flash fire that killed two workers in April.
The most severe violations involved lack of testing and inspection of confined-space environments; others related to hazards in the use of paint thinner and the paint remover Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK).
|Ventilation hoses provide air and exhaust toxic vapors during confined space entry. A guardrail would also be necessary to protect workers from potential falls.|
In all, OSHA cited one willful and 39 serious health and safety violations by Texas Barge & Boat Inc., of Freeport, TX.
Fire, Rescue Claim 2 Lives
Employees Jose Jesus Gonzales-Alvara, 31, and Daniel Santacruz, 41, were killed in the fire, which broke out as one employee was repairing a boat. The second employee was killed while trying to rescue the first man.
The vessel being repaired was on a barge dry-docked at the shipyard on the Brazos River.
OSHA began an inspection April 2 after the local sheriff's department reported that an explosion had occurred at the company’s facility and that two workers were missing.
Nine employees had been performing cutting and fire watch operations inside the hopper space, an area between the cargo hold and the bottom plate of the vessel, with limited means of entry and exit when the flash fire occurred, OSHA said.
The willful violation alleges failure to inspect or conduct air monitoring tests before allowing employees to enter the confined space to perform “hot work”—in this case, oxygen and fuel-gas cutting operations. The fine for that one count was $56,000.
"It is critical that air monitoring is conducted when employees perform cutting operations in confined and enclosed spaces," said Mark Briggs, director of OSHA's Houston South Area Office. "This accident possibly could have been avoided, if the company had followed OSHA's standards."
A willful violation is one committed with “intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for” the law, or with “plain indifference” to employee safety and health.
The serious violations allege:
• Lack of a fire extinguisher within 98 feet of stored paint thinner, MEK and other flammable liquids;
• Failure to have a respiratory protection program for employees performing abrasive blasting;
• Failure to provide fall protection around the perimeter of the barge and around manholes;
• Failure to comply with a variety of compressed breathing air requirements established by ANSI;
• Failure to provide Material Safety Data Sheets at the work site;
• Allowing employees to conduct sanding, abrasive blasting and other activities without being evaluated for, or provided, Personal Protective Equipment;
• Respirator testing, storage, fitting and labeling violations involving employees who use paint thinner and MEK;
• Improper electrical wiring; and
• Lack of a fire safety plan.
A serious violation occurs reflects “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference or contest the citations and penalties.