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April 4, 2008

Atlas Foundry cited for October explosion

TUMWATER — The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has fined Atlas Castings and Technology following an investigation of the liquefied-propane (LP) gas explosion that killed a truck driver and caused extensive damage last October.

The investigation found three serious violations of workplace safety and health regulations related to the accident. A fourth violation — not involved in the accident — was cited for not having an emergency shutoff valve in the piping to protect against uncontrolled discharge of LP gas. The proposed penalties total $19,200.

The L&I investigation found that at the time of delivery, Atlas workers repaired the foundry’s damaged LP-gas fill hose, attaching the fill nozzle using fasteners that were not designed to withstand pressurized LP gas. The delivery driver took the improperly repaired fill hose and began to unload the LP gas. Within seconds, the hose detached from its connection to the truck’s tank, allowing LP gas to rapidly flow from the open valve and fill the air with the explosive gas.

In less than a minute the LP gas ignited, and the first explosion engulfed the truck and fill area. Eight minutes later, the heated tanker truck exploded, causing a second and larger explosion.

The federal Department of Transportation is investigating IXL Transport Services of Molalla, Ore., for possible procedural errors in the delivery of LP gas and/or mechanical failure of the cargo tank and trailer’s emergency shutoff systems in a separate investigation that is not yet completed. L&I did not have jurisdiction over the trucking company because the driver was an independent contractor and not an employee.

Atlas was cited for:

  • Not properly training employees on the repair and maintenance of pressurized LP-gas systems.
  • Using hose connections that were not rated for LP-gas service and would not withstand the pressure.
  • Not testing the repaired hose after assembly to ensure it was free from leaks under normal use.
  • Not having a shutoff valve with means of remote control to protect against uncontrolled discharge of LP gas from piping close to the point where the piping and hose connected.

The company has 15 days to appeal the citation.

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For media information: Elaine Fischer, L&I, at 360-902-5413 or visit the L&I News and Media Center at www.Lni.wa.gov/News.

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