Tank Company Settles OSHA Case

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2015


Following a propane explosion that injured six employees and seriously burned four of them as they were prepping a propane tanks for repainting, a company has settled with the federal agency that oversees worker health and safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Dec. 8 that it had reached a $52,000 settlement with Blue Rhino (also known as Ferrellgas L.P.) in lieu of fines associated with citations the company received for the July 29, 2013, explosion. Blue Rhino had received its citations on Jan. 27, 2014.

“Fireball” Explosion

The settlement agreement, made on Dec. 7, formally affirms nine serious and six other-than serious violations that the company made when night-shift workers at a Taveras, FL., storage facility tried to use a forklift that was not explosion-proof to move some of the tanks.

One of those tanks created a spark, which sent a “fireball” through the storage facility after it ignited propane vapor and nearly 600,000 pounds of propane, the agency said.

The original fine, according to a TV new station in Orlando, was $73,000. The news station also said several of the workers have sued Blue Rhino as a result of the explosion and that those lawsuits are still pending.

An assistant for the respondent's attorney listed in the settlement agreement returned a phone call Thursday (Dec. 16) saying the attorney was unavailable for an immediate comment.

“This settlement is an important step toward protecting these workers and ensuring that all employers are monitoring and removing hazards from the workplace,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator in the Southeast, in the statement.

Investigation

In 2013, OSHA investigators said they found that Blue Rhino had failed to use an explosion-proof forklift in an area where employees were venting propane from tanks. According to the statement, the company also:

  • Failed to follow process safety management standards for the individual propane tanks in the storage yard;
  • Failed to provide process safety management training for employees on propane hazard alarms; and
  • Failed to ensure workers were using personal protective equipment.

In addition to the $52,000 penalty, Blue Rhino has 60 days to abate all hazards the inspectors discovered, the statement says.

Company Profile

Blue Rhino, based in Overland Park, KS, has been in business since 1939. The OSHA statement said it has about 875 locations in the U.S. and designs barbecue grills; outdoor heaters; mosquito traps; and outdoor appliances.

Ferrellgas, which owns the company as well as other oil and gas suppliers, said on its website that it is the “nation’s premiere propane provider.” It serves about 1 million customers nationwide for residential, business, farm and fleet needs, its website said.

   

Tagged categories: Ethics; Health & Safety; Lawsuits; North America; Oil and Gas; OSHA; OSHA; Painters; Tanks

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