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Two US companies fined after exposing staff to explosion injuries

22 December 2015

New Hampshire Attorney General's Office says New Hampshire Ball Bearings has agreed to pay a $150,000 penalty for a factory explosion in Peterborough that blew out windows and injured 15 people last year. OSHA has also fined Blue Rhino $52,000 over the 2013 propane explosion at its Tavares, Florida tank facility.

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New Hampshire Ball Bearings has agreed to pay a $150,000 penalty for a factory explosion in Peterborough that blew out windows and injured 15 people last year. The state Attorney General's Office and Department of Environmental Services announced the settlement on December 21.

They said that $5,000 will be used to help local first responders to continue a program the company voluntarily undertook shortly after the February 2014 accident. The remaining $145,000 will go to a dedicated hazardous waste fund.

According to the state, a tank containing acid used to treat ball bearings was emptied into a drum that may have held an incompatible substance such as isopropyl alcohol. The ensuing reaction caused pressure to build up inside the sealed drum, leading to an explosion.
Officials said the company have now resolved all compliance issues.

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also announced reaching settlement with Blue Rhino over the 2013 propane explosion at its Tavares, Florida tank facility that severely injured six workers.

On July 29, 2013, as night-shift workers prepared tanks for paint removal in a storage yard, a worker called in a forklift to move some tanks. The forklift was not explosion-proof, so it created a spark that ignited propane vapor and nearly 600,000 pounds of propane. A fireball swept through the storage facility, injuring six workers and severely burning four.

OSHA and Ferrellgas LP, doing business as Blue Rhino, signed a settlement agreement on December 7 that resulted in the affirmation of nine serious and six other-than-serious citations. Blue Rhino agreed to pay penalties totalling $52,000. Additionally, the agreement requires Blue Rhino to complete the abatement of all hazards within 60 days of signing the settlement.

“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.

An OSHA investigation on July 30, 2013, found that Blue Rhino failed to use an explosion-proof forklift in an area where employees were actively venting propane from tanks; failed to follow process safety management standards for the individual propane tanks amassed in the storage yard; failed to provide process safety management training for employees on propane hazard alarms; and failed to ensure workers used personal protective equipment.

A leading propane tank exchange brand, Blue Rhino distributes propane at approximately 875 US locations. The company also designs and markets barbecue grills, outdoor heaters, mosquito traps and outdoor appliances. Founded in 1939 and based in Overland Park, Kansas, Blue Rhino is a subsidiary of Ferrellgas Partners LP.

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