Archive for the ‘Catastrophic Construction Accidents’ Category

Wind knocks workers from scaffold

March 1, 2010

An incident, which has kept local media outlets buzzing over the past few days, is an incident which occurred last Friday in the District of Columbia, at a construction site in Georgetown in the 1800 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW.  Two men, who were brothers, fell from a 30 foot high scaffold, apparently as a result of wind gusts.

What we would like to know is, why were the two men allowed to be up on such high scaffolding in the first place, when there was a High Wind Warning in effect on Friday, as posted by the National Weather Service (NWS)?  A High Wind Warning means the following, as stated by the NWS:

This warning is issued by the National Weather Service when high wind speeds may pose a hazard or is life threatening. The criteria for this warning varies from state to state. In Michigan, the criteria is sustained non-convective (not related to thunderstorms) winds greater than or equal to 40 mph lasting for one hour or longer, or winds greater than or equal to 58 mph for any duration.

In this case, the two men were seriously hurt, but are expected to survive.  How could such work be allowed to go on, given the nature of what a High Wind Warning is defined as?  We await further facts in regard to this tragedy, that may shed light on this most unfortunate situation.

First Lawsuit Filed In Kleen Energy Blast –

February 24, 2010

You will probably recall the horrific blast that occurred on February 7, 2010, at Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, Connecticut. Six workers were killed and 26 others were injured when an explosion ripped through the building.  It was reported that a gas line purge was being conducted at the time.  For a reminder on the details of this event, see our posting filed that same day in February.   You can also watch a news report on the investigation into the cause of the explosion as well.    

Today we have learned through an article in the Hartford Courant that the first lawsuit relating to this incident was filed in the Superior Court in Hartford, CT.

Two employees of a subcontractor, Ducci Electrical Contractors, on the site that day, Timothy Hilliker and Harold Thoma, are the first to file a suit relating to this incident.  It is alleged that “…the Feb. 7 purge was poorly supervised, that active welding and grinding were taking place on-site at the time of the explosion and that a gas-fueled torch heater was running at the time of the deadly blast.”

Hilliker and Thoma are being represented by Joel Faxon of Stratton Faxon.  In an interview with the Hartford Courant, Faxon provided the essence of their claim:

“These guys showed up to work and had no concept of what was going on. There was no supervisor telling them what to do.”

Faxon said that Thoma had just stepped out of the Ducci construction trailer when the blast occurred. He suffered head injuries and has been in and out of the hospital. Hilliker was in the trailer when the blast occurred and was thrown into a wall; he also had head injuries.

Faxon said his firm represents about 12 people who were working at the plant when the blast occurred. The lawsuit names O&G Industries, the general contractor for the billion-dollar construction job; Keystone Construction and Maintenance Services Inc., which was supervising the purge; and plant owner Kleen Energy Systems LLC.

According to the report, the pipeline purging, which is the still under investigation for possible criminal charges, is expected to be the subject of much discussion at a National Fire Protection Administration safety seminar this week in San Francisco.

Dan Horowitz, a spokesman for the NFPA, stated, “You don’t want to ventilate in an area where gas can accumulate near people and ignition sources,” Horowitz said. According to Horowitz, the board is recommending a ban of indoor purging of gas lines and will state that gas should be discharged outdoors, away from all confined areas.

UPDATE:  2/25/10 – new warrant issued for site – see today’s posting in

Officials investigate massive Connecticut power plant explosion that killed five | New Jersey Real-Time News – –

February 8, 2010

I suspect you may have heard about this tragic event at the Connecticut power plant but in case you have not, here’s a good article recapping the story.  Officials investigate massive Connecticut power plant explosion that killed five | New Jersey Real-Time News – –

No doubt it will be some time before the precise cause of the explosion, which killed at least five people, is determined.  It appears, however, that the gas lines were being tested when the explosion occurred.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the agency responsible for investigating such events, was mobilizing a team from Colorado yesterday.

This explosion is reminiscent of an explosion at the Slim Jim factory in North Carolina about a year ago. 

According to the report,

Safety board investigators have done extensive work on the issue of gas line purging since an explosion last year at a Slim Jim factory in North Carolina killed four people. They’ve identified other explosions caused by workers who were unsafely venting gas lines inside buildings.

The board voted recently to recommend that national and international code writers strengthen their guidelines to require outdoor venting of gas lines or an approved safety plan to do it indoors.

Maybe it is just me but it seems like it should not take that long to figure out how to ‘strengthen guidelines to require outdoor venting of gas lines’ or to write guidelines for ‘an approved safety plan to do it indoors.’  I understand how revamping health care is extremely complex, but come on – venting gas to the outside or having a safety plan to do it indoors?!