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Bio-diesel Plant Faces Fines After Fire

Thursday, August 27, 2015

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A bio-diesel plant where massive explosions and a fire erupted in April had several safety violations at the time of the blaze, federal officials have said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Viesel Fuel on Aug. 11 with serious and other-than-serious violations. OSHA also levied $13,090 in fines for those violations.

The Fire

On April 1, more than 40,000 gallons of bio-diesel fuel burned at the Stuart, FL, plant, according to reports from WPTV. Three vehicles also were destroyed by the flames, which led to $750,000 in losses. Several news outlets later reported that the cause of the fire was accidental.

Twitter / @MartinFLSheriff

OSHA has fined Viesel Fuel more than $13,000 for safety violations discovered after an April explosion and fire at the company's Stuart, FL, plant.

But the state’s fire marshal also never determined the cause of the fire, WPTV reported. Although the fire marshal said the fire started in tank #2, the agency’s report said that an electrical and mechanical engineer would be needed to determine an exact cause.

“There was no conclusive evidence to indicate a specific cause for this fire,” the report said.

‘Could Have Been Much Worse’

No one was hurt in the blaze, and Martin County Fire Rescue Training Chief Bill Schobel was reported as saying the company’s training procedures are to thank for that.

“It could have been much worse and unfortunately firefighters could have been hurt or worse,” Schobel told WPTV.

But OSHA officials said other issues could have created safety hazards for the employees there.

Recent Citations

In its Aug. 11 citations, OSHA said Viesel Fuel:

  • Had fire extinguishers mounted behind a diesel storage tank, a serious violation with a $3,850 fine;
  • Used extension cords and temporary wiring on several pumps and other equipment, a serious violation with a $5,390 fine;
  • Exposed workers to possible shock at an electrical box that was missing a metal knockout, a serious violation with a $3,080 fine;
  • Neglected to train the employees regarding toxic chemicals, a violation that the agency considers to be other-than-serious but that still carries a $770 fine; and
  • Were not following procedures on its own program for energy control, resulting in two other-than-serious violations but no fine.

Previous Citations

The most recent citations were not the first for Viesel Fuel, according to a WPBF report. OSHA had fined the company more than $10,000 for six violations in 2013. According to the report, the company was cited for not having a formal plan for following safety hazards.

“There were procedures in place, but they didn’t have a formal written plan,” said Alice McGough of Customized Consulting and Training. McGough said she created the plan for the company, which paid $8,600 in fines and came into compliance.

McGough also agreed with Schobel that the plan likely saved the lives of workers on April 1.

Viesel Fuel creates bio-diesel in collaboration with Novozmes and Tactical Fabrication, according to its website. The company says its fuel’s chemical properties are similar to conventional diesel and does not require engine modification to use. Among its listed vendors are KFC, Mulligans and American Airlines Arena.

A phone operator at Viesel Fuel referred comments about the citations to the public affairs firm McNicholas & Associates. An email sent Wednesday (Aug. 26) to Tom McNicholas with questions was not answered by deadline.


Tagged categories: Fire; Government; Government contracts; Health & Safety; North America; OSHA; OSHA

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