Fatal Fire at PA Gas Processing Plant

June 24, 2019

A Houston, Pennsylvania natural gas processing plant faces $51,148 in penalties for safety violations in connection to a fatal fire that occurred at the plant. The company it contracted for cleaning services also faces penalties in the amount of $47,360 for its role in the accident. A subsequent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation led to multiple citations for violations of process safety management (PSM) and other standards.

Employee Fatally Injured in Fire

In December 2018, MW Logistics Services LLC (MW Logistics) hired Energy Transportation LLC to clean lines and vessels at the Houston plant. Hazardous chemical gases escaped and caught fire while four employees were cleaning out one of the tanks. The employees were all hospitalized for their injuries, one of whom later died. The plant was shut down and the fatal incident led to investigations by OSHA and Pennsylvania State Police fire marshals.

OSHA Investigation Uncovers Multiple Safety Violations

OSHA has several regulations in place which specifically pertain to highly hazardous chemicals and the unexpected release of toxic, reactive, or flammable liquids and gases. These requirements are set forth in the Process Safety Management (PSM) of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard.

Host Employer Cited for Violations

The OSHA Area Director says that the PA processing plant tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had followed safety processes as required under the OSH Act. OSHA’s investigation led the agency to cite MW Logistics for failing to comply with the PSM requirements that an employer:

  • develop and implement written operating procedures for safely conducting activities;
  • inform contract employees of related fire, explosion, or toxic release hazards;
  • explain the applicable provisions of the emergency action plan to contract employees who work on or near the covered process areas;
  • develop and implement safe work practices; and
  • periodically evaluate the performance of contract employees to ensure they are fulfilling their obligations under the PSM standard.

Contract Employer Also Faces Penalties

Energy Transportation LLC was also cited for serious PSM standard violations, namely for the failure to advise MW Logistics of the unique hazards presented by the work and for the failure to ensure that contract employees are:

  • trained in the work practices necessary to safely perform their jobs;
  • instructed in the known fire, explosion, or toxic release hazards related to their job and the applicable provisions of the emergency action plan; and
  • following the safety rules and safe work practices of the facility.

OSHA also cited the contract employer for violating the General Duty clause of the OSH Act, which states that employees must furnish places of employment that are free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. MW Logistics also received an additional citation for failing to conduct periodic (at least annual) inspections of the energy control procedure.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Victims of Workplace Explosions and Fires Obtain Compensation for Their Injuries

If you were injured in a workplace explosion or fire, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. You may be entitled to various types of benefits depending on the circumstances of your case and the nature of your injury. Complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW today to schedule a free consultation.

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