Two Workers Die in Flash Fire, Boat Repair Firm Fined $221,200

Nine employees were performing cutting and fire watch operations inside the hopper space, an area between the cargo hold and the bottom plate of the vessel, with limited means of entry and exit when the flash fire occurred.

OSHA has cited Texas Barge & Boat Inc. for one willful and 39 serious violations following the deaths of two workers from a fire at the company's facility in Freeport, Texas, where boats and barges are repaired. Proposed penalties total $221,200.

"It is critical that air monitoring is conducted when employees perform cutting operations in confined and enclosed spaces," said Mark Briggs, director of OSHA's Houston South Area Office. "This accident possibly could have been avoided if the company had followed OSHA's standards."

OSHA initiated a safety and health inspection on April 2 following a report from the local sheriff's department that an explosion had occurred and two workers were missing at the company's facility. Nine employees were performing cutting and fire watch operations inside the hopper space, an area between the cargo hold and the bottom plate of the vessel, with limited means of entry and exit when the flash fire occurred.

The willful violation was cited for failing to conduct air monitoring tests prior to employees entering the confined and enclosed spaces to perform oxygen and fuel gas cutting operations.

The serious violations involve failing to provide fall protection around the perimeter of the barge and around manholes, ensure compressed gas cylinders were secured, ensure proper electrical wiring was installed, ensure circuit breakers were labeled, provide respirator fit-testing, inspect oxygen, and acetylene hoses, and develop a fire safety plan.

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