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OSHA cites contractors after methane explosion at upstate New York water plant

14 February 2014

On February 13, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its report on the September 2013 explosion at the Canastota Wastewater Treatment Plant in upstate New York that killed one worker and injured another. Investigators found serious workplace safety violations at two of the contractors involved in the upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant.

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Joy Process Mechanical of East Syracuse and M. Hubbard Construction of Mottville had been hired to replace piping inside a methane gas dome, a confined space. The Joy Process Mechanical worker was welding inside the dome when the explosion occurred, burning him and a Hubbard Construction worker who was standing atop a stepladder opening to the confined space.

Investigators from OSHA's Syracuse Area Office found that both employers failed to ensure safeguards and to train workers on the hazards associated with methane gas and confined spaces. Workers were not provided with a meter to measure the presence of combustible gas. The confined space also lacked adequate ventilation and a retrieval system for swift exits in an emergency. Hubbard Construction was also cited for ladder misuse and for using electrical equipment that had not been rated safe in a hazardous atmosphere.

As a result, Joy Process Mechanical was issued three serious citations with $14,700 in proposed fines. Hubbard Construction was issued seven serious citations with $31,020 in fines. A serious violation occurs 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.

Each employer has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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