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July 30, 1996

Vancouver-area contractor cited and fined $29,000 for worker safety violations

TUMWATER - The Department of Labor & Industries has cited and fined a Vancouver-area contractor more than $29,000 for willfully violating worker safety standards in connection with a March 26 explosion that injured a welder and ignited a fire.

Colf Construction, P.O. Box 1434, Vancouver, was cited for willfully failing to ensure that welding was not performed on a used storage tank until after the tank was purged of potentially flammable substances. The citation noted that the employer had been informed by the Department of Ecology and a private consultant that the tank had to be triple-rinsed before any activity involving the tank was permitted.

The welder, who was dismantling the 500-gallon tank, was injured when flammable vapors inside the tank ignited and exploded. The employee, Robert Hanes, who was thrown through the air by the force of the explosion, suffered burns and broken bones.

Earlier in the month, the employer had correctly purged another tank before it was dismantled as advised by the DOE and the private consultant. Willful citations are issued when it is determined that the violation was committed intentionally or knowingly.

Specifically, Colf was cited a willful violation and fined $28,000 for:

  • Failing to ensure that the welding was not performed until after the tank was cleaned.
  • Failing to ensure that the tank was vented to permit the escape of air gases before the welding was performed.
  • In addition, Colf was cited for two serious violations as well. They were for:
  • Failing to ensure that first-aid equipment was available and that employees were in place to perform first aid during every shift where welding was performed. ($640 penalty)
  • An accident prevention plan that didn't include a description of how welding on the tanks would be performed in a safe manner. ($600 penalty)

Serious violations are cited when there is a substantial probability that a violation could result in a worker's death or serious injury.

The employer has 15 working days from receipt of the citation to appeal.

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