One temporary worker was killed and another injured by an explosion at a Mississippi fish oil plant in July 2014. The workers were hired to cut and weld pipes at the Moss Point, Miss. Omega Protein plant. One suffered a fractured skull, internal injuries and broken bones; the second man, 25-year-old Jerry Taylor, died when the tank over which they were working exploded. According to US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the workers were not told a storage tank beneath them contained explosive methane and hydrogen sulfide gases.
OSHA found four companies violated safety regulations that could have prevented the accident: Omega Protein, Accu-Fab & Construction Inc. and JP Williams Machine & Fabrication, all in Moss Point, and Global Employment Services, in Pascagoula.
Accu-Fab, a metal fabricator, was contracted by Omega Protein to manufacture and erect a wastewater storage tank that required modification of existing pipes. Staffing firm Global Employment Services provided Accu-Fab with the temporary workers.
“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,” said Eugene Stewart, OSHA’s area director in Jackson. “If the employer ensured a safe environment, this tragic incident could have been prevented.”
OSHA issued 13 citations to Omega Protein for willful, repeated and serious safety violations. Among Accu-Fab’s citations was a willful violations for failure to train workers on chemical hazards in the work area. Global Employment Services was cited for this same hazard. Both employers were cited for failure to instruct employees about avoiding unsafe work conditions. Accu-Fab was also cited for failure to ensure employees working on top of a storage tank at heights of up to 29 feet were wearing fall protection and for not recording this fatality or two other recordable injuries.
JP Williams Machine, which provides industrial service and repair, was on site the day of the explosion performing unrelated maintenance activities. It was cited for improperly storing oxygen and acetylene cylinders.