$540,890 in Fines Issued to Three Firms Following Blast at Calif. Plant

The explosion occurred when a pressure vessel containing compressed gas, including oxygen and hydrogen, exploded while the two workers were transferring hydrogen and oxygen gas from one cylinder to another.

The California Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has issued 28 citations with penalties totaling $540,890 following an investigation of an Aug. 9, 2011, explosion in Sylmar, Calif., that injured three people. Investigators found violations at three companies that resulted in eighteen serious and six willful citations. The citations were issued to Rainbow of Hope AKA Rainbow of Hope Foundation, Strategic Sciences Inc., and Realm Catalyst.

The explosion occurred when a pressure vessel containing compressed gas, including oxygen and hydrogen, exploded while the two workers were transferring hydrogen and oxygen gas from one cylinder to another. The explosion took the arm and leg of one worker and seriously injured the other. Another injured employee was reportedly treated and released for minor injuries.

“Our investigation documented a troubling disregard for safety as the employer continued to manufacture and store gases that are known to be highly explosive without the proper safety procedures in place”, said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “Employers cannot place their employees at risk by skirting their workplace safety responsibilities.”

The Cal/OSHA investigation revealed that the three employers were involved in the manufacture and storage of oxygen/hydrogen gas that could potentially give rise to explosive environments. The employers failed to correct hazardous conditions that had been previously identified in two prior explosions, including one incident that resulted in the death of a worker in Simi Valley in June 2010.

The Aug. 9 explosion took place on the same day of a hearing for the citations issued by Cal/OSHA against Realm Catalyst for the June 2010 explosion. The hearing resulted in a settlement reducing penalties against the employer from $5,685 and downgrading one of the citations from serious to general in classification due to a lack of evidence as it had been destroyed in the accident.

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