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Fatal OH Plant Blast Draws $325K Fine

Monday, June 24, 2013

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A deadly explosion at a Cincinnati sewage plant has drawn 22 federal health and safety violations and $325,710 in fines for the facility owner.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration accuses Environmental Enterprises Inc., a waste-treatment facility, of four willful violations—the agency's highest level of infraction—in the blast Dec. 28 that killed  Zachary Henzerling, 20, and critically injured a co-worker.

Henzerling was one of four workers at Environmental Enterprises shredding an industrial filter about 4 a.m. Friday when the explosion and flash fire occurred. The filter contained sodium chlorate, a toxic bleaching agent, authorities said.

EEI explosion

The explosion Dec. 28 killed one worker, left one severely burned, and injured two others.

Henzerling died the next day. The other victims were not identified, but one was gravely injured, authorities said.

Severe Violator

In connection with the fatality, the company was cited for failing: to develop and implement hazardous waste handling procedures; to provide new training to employees assigned to handle waste materials; to select and ensure the use of proper personal protective equipment; and to train workers about protective gear needed for their job assignments.

Because of those citations, OSHA placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections. The program focuses on what OSHA calls "recalcitrant" employers with severe or repeated violations.

The other 18 violations were unrelated to the accident but involved conditions spotted upon inspection.

526 Gallons

OSHA says that the workers were using a power saw that was not suitable for use in a Class 1 hazardous location in a storage room containing 526 gallons of flammable fiquids.


Environmental Enterprises Inc. specializes in hazardous-waste management.

The safety citations allege, among other things, that the company:

  • Lacked a written safety program for employees involved in hazardous waste programs;
  • Failed to minimize sources of ignition around vapors;
  • Used powered trucks and fork lifts not rated for hazardous locations in areas filled with drums and containers of flammable liquirds; and
  • Lacked confined-space identification, training and rescue procedures while allowing employees to enter and clean chemical tanks.

The health violations include allegations of:

  • Lack of ventilation in the Flammable Storage Room;
  • Lack of training and documentation for employees working with hazardous wastes; and
  • Lack of decontamination procedures for employees exposed to lead, arsenic, and other hazardous wastes.

The company could not be reached for comment Friday (June 21).

'Complete Disregard'

"Environmental Enterprises demonstrated a complete disregard for employee's safety and health by failing to recognize and train employees on potentially dangerous interactions between materials being handled and tools in use,"said Bill Wilkerson, OSHA’s area director in Cincinnati.

“Even after this tragic explosion, the company failed to immediately address procedures and ensure employees knew how to use appropriate personal protective equipment and properly handle hazardous waste such as sodium chlorate,”

OSHA’s investigation found that an organic industrial filter cartridge, filled with sodium chlorate, ignited, causing the deadly explosion.

“The likely source of the ignition was an electrically powered reciprocating saw that the employees received permission to use to remove metal end caps and mesh from the filter. When in contact with incompatible materials, including organics, sodium chlorate becomes sensitive to reactions capable of resulting in fire and violent explosions,” an OSHA release said.

Environmental Enterprises Inc. is headquartered in Cincinnati where it employs about 85 workers. The company also has business-related facilities in Columbus, Ohio; Virginia and Pennsylvania, which employ an additional 35 workers.


Tagged categories: Confined space; Explosions; Fatalities; hazardous materials; Hazardous waste; Lead; OSHA; Tanks and vessels; Wastewater Plants

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