On Feb. 7, a gas blow operation was being performed in which flammable natural gas was pumped under high pressure through new fuel gas lines to remove debris. During this operation, an extremely large amount of natural gas was vented into areas where it could not easily disperse.

$16.6 Million Fine in Kleen Energy Blast

"The fines and penalties reflect the gravity and severity of the deadly conditions created by the companies managing the work at the site," said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today cited three construction companies and 14 site contractors for 371 alleged workplace safety violations and proposed $16.6 million in penalties after investigating the causes of February's  natural gas explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems LLC power plant construction site in Middletown, Conn. The explosion killed six workers and injured 50 others.

"The millions of dollars in fines levied pale in comparison to the value of the six lives lost and numerous other lives disrupted," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. "However, the fines and penalties reflect the gravity and severity of the deadly conditions created by the companies managing the work at the site. No operation and no deadline is worth cutting common sense safety procedures. Workers should not sacrifice their lives for their livelihoods."

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board adopted 18 urgent safety recommendations on a 4-1 vote June 28 at a Portland, Conn., public meeting about the Feb. 7 explosion. CSB and a commission formed by Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell determined there are no regulations governing "gas purges" of this type, although they are frequently used at these plants because they already have a ready supply of natural gas available.

"These employers blatantly disregarded well-known and accepted industry procedures and their own safety guidelines in conducting the gas blow operation in a manner that exposed workers to fire and explosion hazards," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "We see this time and time again across industries when companies deliberately ignore safety precautions in the interest of completing jobs quickly, and workers end up being killed or seriously hurt."

In connection with the explosion, OSHA has cited O&G Industries Inc., the project's general contractor; Keystone Construction and Maintenance Inc., which was in charge of the piping and oversaw the gas blow; and Bluewater Energy Services Inc., the commissioning and startup contractor for the plant.

All three companies were cited for performing the gas blow procedure in a way that exposed workers to fire and explosion hazards, including the configuration of the vent pipes in close proximity to scaffolding and other structures, and the failure to remove non-essential personnel from the area.

Citations were also issued for failing to install and use electrical equipment in accordance with its listing and labeling, allowing welding work during the gas blows and failing to train employees to recognize hazards associated with gas blows.

O&G was issued 119 willful, 17 serious and three other-than-serious citations with penalties totaling $8,347,000. Keystone Construction and Maintenance was issued 94 willful, 16 serious and one other-than-serious citation with fines of $6,686,000. Bluewater Energy Services was issued 12 willful citations and eight serious citations totaling $896,000.

In addition to the three main companies, 14 subcontractors have been cited for additional serious hazards with penalties totaling $686,000. To view all of the citations issued today to each company, visit http://www.osha.gov/doc/kleen_energy/kleen.html.

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