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Nearly $21,000 in OSHA Fines Proposed Following Oil Refinery Explosion Incident

Earlier this month, the State of Nevada Department of Business & Industry issued a press release regarding Nevada’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) investigation of the December 9, 2013 explosion and fire at Bango Refining NV, LLC, which left one employee with severe burn injuries.

According to the press release, workers at the oil refinery had been attempting to thaw an asphalt recycle line, which had slowed due to sub-zero temperatures. Among other methods employed to heat the line, the workers used a weed burner-style propane tank and torch to provide direct external heat to the line. That method was not prescribed in Bango’s standard operating instructions. The workers also applied plant steam inside the line.

Based on the investigation, OSHA suspects that the plant steam inside the line was redirected into the hot asphalt tank, creating steam pressure that the tank was not designed to endure. As a result, the tank cover was dislodged, causing hot liquid asphalt and other combustible products to rain down onto the employee who was using the torch below. The employee dropped the lit torch and attempted to run, but slipped and fell forward into the pooling hot asphalt. A fire resulted, but all other employees escaped without injury. According to a report from KOLO-TV, the 24-year-old injured employee suffered second and third degree burns, with an estimated 58% of his body burned in the accident.

Following the investigation, Nevada OSHA officials have proposed that the oil refinery be cited nearly $21,000 in fines for serious violations of Nevada Revised Statutes General Duty clause and Nevada OSHA General Industry standards. In particular, the proposed citations are based upon OSHA’s findings that:

  • Bango failed to implement the permit system with the use of an open flame, and failed to follow other hot work procedures;
  • Bango failed to provide training and information to employees relative to hot work practices in restoring flow to blocked asphalt lines, which would have permitted them to recognize the hazards associated with that work; and
  • Bango failed to implement or enforce measures requiring employees to use personal protective equipment during hot work activities.

For each violation, OSHA proposed a penalty of $6,930, for a total of $20,790 in penalties arising from the incident and the employee’s resulting work-related injuries.