Explosion at Mass. Maintenance Facility Leads to $44,000 Penalty

An employee was performing welding on a pontoon boat when the hot work ignited vapors from within the boat's interior. OSHA found that the boat had not been adequately ventilated to ensure the escape of flammable gasses before welding.

OSHA has cited SPS New England with 11 alleged serious violations of safety standards following a July 15 explosion at the company's maintenance facility in Salisbury, Mass., that injured a worker. The Salisbury-based construction contractor faces a total of $44,000 in proposed fines, chiefly for deficiencies in welding procedures and safeguards.

The employee was performing welding on a pontoon boat when the hot work ignited vapors from within the boat's interior. OSHA found that the boat had not been adequately ventilated to ensure the escape of flammable gasses before welding; welding had been performed in the presence of an explosive atmosphere; guards had not been set up to confine heat, sparks and slag; combustibles were not properly shielded; a welding area and procedures had not been established; authorization had not been secured for the welding; a fire watch was not provided; no individual had been designated to authorize and oversee the welding; and the work area had not been adequately inspected beforehand. In addition, there were electrical hazards stemming from damaged welding cables and an ungrounded extension cord.

"This incident graphically shows what can and does happen when proper welding preparations and procedures are not followed," said Jeffrey A. Erskine, OSHA's area director for Essex and Middlesex counties in Massachusetts. "While it is fortunate that this worker was not killed, he was needlessly injured. This incident should not have occurred."

A serious citation is issued 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. Information on welding, cutting and brazing hazards and safeguards is available online at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/weldingcuttingbrazing/index.html.

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