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CSB recommendations still outstanding after fatal Kleen Energy explosion

10 February 2014

An investigation by the Hartford Courant into the aftermath of the 2010 explosion and fire at the Kleen Energy site in Middletown, Connecticut, concludes that the original level of fines on the companies involved will be much-reduced, and that key safety recommendations by the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) have not been implemented.

The explosion on February 7, 2010, killed six workers, injured 50, and resulted in the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposing fines of $16.6 million, the third-largest workplace-safety fine in US history, after documenting hundreds of safety violations at the site.

After a review of documents relating to the case, the Courant says OSHA agreed  to wipe out most of the fines originally levied against the 17 companies it determined were responsible for the explosion, rather than contest them in court. The principal company involved O&G, saw its fines reduced by 88%.

It also claims OSHA has rejected calls for an outright ban on the use of flammable gas to clean out pipes, which was implicated in the explosion, thereby dismissing a primary recommendation from the CSB report into the disaster.

OSHA is instead asking for voluntary compliance with new industry guidelines that include safer alternatives for pipe-purging. Four years after the disaster, the only US state to introduce a formal ban on gas purging has been Connecticut. OSHA officials apparently believe the practice is no longer used, but the Courant quotes CSB officials as saying they are not sure if that is indeed the case.

A total of 14 urgent recommendations from the CSB report have been adopted, but four others, including a ban on gas purging and prohibiting work in areas where the concentration of released gas reaches potentially hazardous levels, have not.

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