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OSHA fines 4 companies after fatal fish plant explosion

oshalogo1MOSS POINT — Fines totaling $187,620 have been proposed against four companies related to a deadly explosion at Omega Protein last year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says in a news release that two temporary workers hired to cut and weld pipes at the Moss Point plan on July 28, 2014, had no training to know that the storage tank beneath them contained explosive methane and hydrogen sulfide gases.

The explosion blew the lid off the 30-foot-high tank, killing a worker who was on top of it and injuring another.

Omega Protein produces fish oils and fish meal for human consumption and for use in aquaculture, agriculture and industrial applications.

The Mississippi Press reports the companies are Accu-Fab & Construction Inc., Omega Protein, and JP Williams Machine & Fabrication, all in Moss Point, and Global Employment, in Pascagoula.

The companies have 15 business days to appeal.

“The Omega Protein plant explosion shines a spotlight on how critical it is for employers to verify, isolate and remove fire and explosion hazards in employee work areas,” Eugene Stewart, OSHA’s area director in Jackson, said in the news release.

Accu-Fab, a metal fabricator, was contracted by Omega Protein to manufacture and erect a waste water storage tank that required modification of existing pipes. A staffing agency, Global Employment Services, provided Accu-Fab with the employees needed at Omega. JP Williams Machine, which provides industrial service and repair, was on-site the day of the explosion performing unrelated maintenance activities.

OSHA issued 13 citations to Omega Protein for willful, repeated and serious safety violations.

“The health and safety of our employees and contractors is an absolute priority for Omega Protein, and we take these finding very seriously,” company spokesman Ben Landry said in a statement.

OSHA issued a willful citation for exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards due to Omega management’s failure to inform Accu-Fab that the storage tank contained waste water that could generate hydrogen sulfide and methane gases, which can be highly explosive and toxic, even at low concentrations.

“The majority of the findings in the OSHA report have already been remedied, some of which were resolved on the spot during the OSHA site visits last summer,” Landry said. “The last remaining items are already in the process of being addressed.”

He said the company does not agree with the full OSHA report’s conclusions.

“The company expects it will request a conference with OSHA and will appeal parts of its determination,” Landry said.

OSHA cited Accu-Fab for one willful violation for failing to train workers on chemical hazards in the work area, such as hydrogen sulfide, methane, welding gas and paints.

Global Employment Services was issued a serious citation for this same hazard.

JP Williams was issued one serious citation for improperly storing oxygen and acetylene cylinders.

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