An article in the January 14, 2011 Post Gazette indicates that OSHA has come down quite hard on U.S. Steel in regard to an explosion that occurred at their Clairton Coke Works in July 2010.
Our office takes great interest in this because we are representing three of the people seriously burned in that industrial accident. We also represent the family a worker who was killed in another explosion at U.S. Steel back in September 2009.
What is so striking about the most recent OSHA findings is that they charged U.S. Steel not only with serious violations but also "willful" violations. That means that OSHA believes that U.S. Steel either intentionally or recklessly disregarded obvious safety hazards. Normally, when OSHA issues citations, they do not charge the company with "willful" violations, so this is rare indeed.
Explosions are among the most serious industrial accidents that we see, and burn injuries are certainly among the most serious injuries that we see.
Most likely the thing that really caught OSHA's attention in this case was that this was not a spur of the moment job that was being done when this explosion occurred. Instead, this job, which involved opening a gas line, had been planned by U.S. Steel for weeks. OSHA said they never should have opened the line without first making sure that all of the gas had been purged from it. Instead of doing that, OSHA said that U.S. Steel knew that there was still gas in the line when they directed it to be opened.
We have a more complete discussion of industrial accidents, fires and explosions on our website.