OSHA Issues Multiple Safety Citations for Fatal Explosion

OSHA has proposed $56,000 in fines against industrial gear manufacturer Rexnord Industries and $16,800 against contractor J.M. Brennan Inc., both based in Milwaukee, for alleged serious violations of federal workplace safety standards following a gas explosion last year that claimed three lives and injured 45 others.

A large explosion and fire occurred Dec. 6, 2006, at the Falk Corp. plant in Milwaukee during an operational test of a back-up propane gas system. An underground leak allowed gas to escape and ignite. The fatal blast shook the downtown area and caused extensive damage to the factory complex.

OSHA's investigation resulted in eight serious violations of safety standards issued to Rexnord, the parent of Falk Corp., pertaining to employee and emergency training and response, failing to protect underground liquid propane piping from corrosion, and failure to conduct a site analysis to identify hazardous conditions and minimize employee exposure to explosion hazards.

OSHA also issued three serious violations to J.M. Brennan Inc. for its improper installation of underground liquid propane piping at the facility, as well as training and emergency response deficiencies.

"It is impossible to overstate the necessity for caution and adherence to safety regulations in dealing with volatile gas," said OSHA's Area Director George Yoksas in Milwaukee.

In a statement, J.M. Brennan disputed the allegations; the contractor claims it installed the pipeline properly, and its workers acted appropriately on the day of the explosion. Rexnord officials stated they would review OSHA's findings to improve procedures and training.

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