Occupational Safety & Health Administration

OSHA Cites Contractors After Methane Gas Causes Explosion at Wastewater Treatment Plant

Serious workplace safety violations were found in connection with the September 2013 explosion at the Canastota Wastewater Treatment Plant that killed one worker and injured another. Joy Process Mechanical Inc. of East Syracuse and M. Hubbard Construction Inc. of Mottville were hired by the plant to replace piping inside a methane gas dome, a confined space. The Joy Process Mechanical worker was welding inside the dome when the explosion occurred, burning him and a Hubbard Construction worker who was standing atop a stepladder opening to the confined space.

Investigators from OSHA's Syracuse Area Office found that both employers failed to ensure safeguards and to train workers on the hazards associated with methane gas and confined spaces. Workers were not provided with a meter to measure the presence of combustible gas. The confined space also lacked adequate ventilation and a retrieval system for swift exits in an emergency. Hubbard Construction was also cited for ladder misuse and for using electrical equipment that had not been rated safe in a hazardous atmosphere.

As a result, Joy Process Mechanical was issued three serious citations with $14,700 in proposed fines. Hubbard Construction was issued seven serious citations with $31,020 in fines. A serious violation occurs 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.

Each employer has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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