Feb. 10, 2015
OSHA cites Saia Motor Freight Line after explosion injures 4 in St. Louis
Company operates forklifts with defective safety switches, faces fines of $119K
ST. LOUIS – Four employees were hospitalized, two of them critically injured, after an explosion at a St. Louis trucking terminal on Aug. 6, 2014. The explosion's cause: a forklift's ignition source and a loose coupling connection to a liquid propane gas tank. An investigation of the incident by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found one willful and 11 serious safety and health violations at Saia Motor Freight Line LLC. As a result, the agency has proposed penalties of $119,000.
OSHA's investigation found that two forklift operators were changing a propane tank on a liquefied petroleum gas-powered forklift inside a freight trailer when a loose coupling connection permitted liquid propane to leak, vaporize and ignite, causing a flash fire. Both a 54-year-old lead forklift operator and a newly hired 25-year-old worker, who had used propane forklifts for about a month, received critical burns. A third worker suffered burns to his legs as he helped extinguish his colleagues' burning clothing. A fourth employee, who was using his forklift near the flash fire, was also burned.
"Workers must be trained to avoid deadly combinations of flammable fuels, ignition sources and confined spaces, which allow vapors to ignite quickly," said Bill McDonald, OSHA's area director in St. Louis. "This incident should remind all employers that using forklifts is one of the hazards workers may face daily."
Inspectors found several powered industrial trucks with defective or bypassed safety switches being used when they were in need of repairs, resulting in a willful violation.
A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.
A total of 11 serious safety and health violations were noted, many involving propane hazards. OSHA found that Saia did not evacuate the work area after the release of the flammable gas; require the exchange of forklift propane containers in an adequately ventilated area; mount gas containers on the cylinder indexing pin correctly; train workers on extremely flammable gas hazards; and require the use of hand and eye protection when changing cylinders. Additionally, hazardous chemicals in the maintenance shop were not labeled. The company also failed to train powered industrial truck operators, and several electrical safety hazards were noted.
An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known existed.
View the current citations at
Based in Duluth, Georgia, Saia has 147 terminals covering 34 states and Canada. It employs approximately 8,000 workers. There are three operating service groups: Saia LTL, Saia Truckload Plus and Saia Logistics Services. The company has about 150 employees at the St. Louis terminal who perform cross-dock operations.
Saia has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the St. Louis Area Office at 314-425-4249.
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 ensure 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.
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Release Number: 15-183-KAN
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