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OSHA blames DuPont and contractor for explosion

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited DuPont and one of its contractors for 17 violations at DuPont's Tonawanda Plant. In November of last year, a Mollenberg-Betz contract worker lost his life in a plant explosion that OSHA said could have been prevented if the companies had anticipated hazards.

The fatal explosion killed a 57-year-old employee who had been welding on top of a slurry tank. Sparks from the veteran worker's welding torch reportedly ignited vapors in a tank that was supposed to be empty, causing the explosion. The welder was killed instantly and another 50-year-old employee nearby sustained serious workplace injuries.

OSHA's workplace investigation resulted in nine violations against DuPont and eight more against the Buffalo contractor. The federal workplace safety watchdog said that both DuPont and the contractor were negligent in their responsibilities to make sure that the slurry tank was empty before the welder started to work. Upon inspection, OSHA found that the tank that had exploded was still connected to two other operating slurry tanks.

DuPont received the lion's share of the serious violations, including charges that it did not tell the contractor about the explosive hazards around the tank or tell the contractor anything about the plant's control program for hazardous energy or about the potential danger that welding might pose at the slurry tank. DuPont was also cited for failing to use approved electrical equipment is a dangerous area.

The local director of OSHA said the fatal explosion is a lesson and a warning for employers who do not ensure a safe workplace for employees, especially in potentially explosive situations like the one discovered at the Tonawanda plant.

Source: WBFO: "OSHA cites DuPont and Buffalo contractor for fatal explosion" by Eileen Buckley: May 5, 2011

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