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OSHA cites three firms for safety violations in deadly worksite fire

Posted On: Feb. 20, 2013 12:00 AM CST

OSHA cites three firms for safety violations in deadly worksite fire

Federal workplace safety regulators on Wednesday flagged three companies with multiple safety violations in connection with a July 2012 fire that killed two workers at a Hockley, Texas, worksite.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed fines totaling $119,840 for Watco Mechanical Services — a subsidiary of Pittsburg, Kan.-based Watco Cos. L.L.C. — as well as Magnolia, Texas-based Jordan General Contractors Inc. and Conroe, Texas-based JP Electric.

Workers using a torch to cut metal accidently ignited nearby combustible dust during routine blasting operations at Watco's railcar repair facility in Hockley on July 14, 2012. The ensuing fire claimed the lives of two Jordan General Contractors employees and injured a third, according to a statement from OSHA released on Wednesday.

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

Watco Mechanical Services was cited for 14 serious violations of federal workplace safety regulations totaling $91,300 in fines, including failures to clean and control emissions of combustible dust, provide warning signs to alert employees of combustible dust hazards and keep emergency cylinder respirators fully charged.

OSHA regulators also cited Jordan General Contractors with seven serious violations totaling $20,240 in fines, including failing to properly train its workers on the hazards of working near combustible dust.

JP Electric, which assisted in the demolition activities, was fined $2,800 for one serious violation for failing to prohibit metal-cutting operations near exposed combustible dust.