US Labor Department's OSHA fines western Pennsylvania companies
for exposing workers to flammable materials following double fatality
CHESWICK, Pa. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Northeast Energy Management Inc. in Indiana, Pa., and Huntley & Huntley Inc. in Monroeville, Pa., for workplace safety violations following an explosion at the Huntley-owned Murry Heirs #6 well site in Cheswick that caused the death of two workers.
OSHA began its investigation in July 2010 after being notified that a tank containing flammable materials had exploded and two Northeast Energy welders were killed. Huntley & Huntley contracted Northeast Energy to repair a leaking barrel tank at the well site and was responsible for ensuring that Northeast Energy properly trained its workers on safe welding procedures.
"These companies did not ensure that proper welding procedures were followed, resulting in this tragic loss of life," said Robert Szymanski, director of OSHA's area office in Pittsburgh, Pa. "OSHA remains committed to holding employers legally responsible when they fail to adhere to federal law and compromise the safety of workers."
As a result of the investigation, Northeast Energy was cited for two willful violations involving failure to ensure workers were welding on a thoroughly cleaned tank that did not contain flammable materials which might produce a flammable or toxic vapor when subjected to heat, and determine whether flammable/combustible or other hazardous materials were present. Huntley & Huntley also received a citation for one willful violation for failing to ensure Northeast Energy suitably trained welders and supervisors in the safe operation of welding equipment and the safe use of the welding process. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
Northeast Energy also was cited for serious violations for failing to provide workers with flame retardant clothing protection during welding operations, ensure that supervision determined the welder secured approval prior to commence welding operations and train employees in the specific procedures needed to protect themselves from hazardous chemicals. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Northeast Energy is involved in drill site preparation and reclamation. The company was assessed a penalty of $159,390. Huntley & Huntley develops oil and gas wells and has more than 350 gas wells in western Pennsylvania. The company was assessed a penalty of $70,000.
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Pittsburgh Area Office; telephone: 412-395-4903. To report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.