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Combustible Dust Flash Fire Killed 2 Workers at Texas Site

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Hockley, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Watco Mechanical Services, Jordan General Contractors Inc. and JP Electric after a combustible dust flash fire claimed the lives of two workers at a Hockley work site. Proposed penalties for the three companies total $119,840.

OSHA began its investigation on Aug. 19, 2012, at the Watco Mechanical Services work site on Premium Drive where workers were conducting blasting operations in the facility's tank and hopper building. Employees were cutting metal with a torch when a fire broke out, killing two workers employed by Magnolia, Texas-based Jordan General Contractors.

Jordan General Contractors was cited with seven serious violations for failing to develop and implement a respiratory program; provide training on the hazards of working with combustible dust; ensure cutting operations are halted in the presence of combustible dust; ensure the use of a body belt when working in an aerial lift; and ensure aerial lift loads do not exceed required limits. 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. Proposed penalties total $20,240.

OSHA cited Pittsburg, Kan.-based Watco Mechanical Services with 14 serious violations, including failing to adequately control fugitive emissions of combustible dust; keep work areas clean of combustible dust; provide warning signs to alert employees of combustible dust hazards; and keep emergency cylinder respirators fully charged. Additionally, confined space violations were found, including failing to identify and evaluate confined space hazards and develop and implement confined space procedures. OSHA also cited the company with two other-than-serious violations for failing to certify the use of emergency respirators and document filter changes. Proposed penalties total $91,300.

Conroe, Texas-based JP Electric, which assisted in demolition activities, was cited with one serious safety violation for failing to prohibit cutting operations in the presence of combustible dust. Proposed penalties total $2,800.

"This incident underscores the seriousness of exposing workers to the inadequate control of combustible dust," said David Doucet, OSHA's area director at its Houston North office. "Following OSHA standards helps to save lives and avoid such needless tragedy."

Citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/WATCOMechanicalServices_587438_021513.pdf*
http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/JordanGeneralContractorsInc_587409_021513.pdf*
http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/JPElectric_587458_021513.pdf*.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Houston North office or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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