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OSHA cites heater as source of deadly fire

South Carolinians may be interested in a report on a deadly oil rig accident published by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in June. The original incident took place in December 2014, when an active rig in Coalgate, Oklahoma, caught fire and eventually exploded. According to reports, this incident killed three workers and caused two others to sustain serious burn injuries.

The rig's operator was cited twice by OSHA for willfully failing to enact safety precautions that might have prevented the worker deaths. According to reports, the OSHA inquiry found that the rig operator permitted someone at the site to manage a heating device that contained an open flame; the agency determined that this heater ignited the initial blaze. An OSHA official said that the company was aware of the hazards of this device yet decided neither to mitigate its risk nor provide its staff with flame-retardant gear.

The company also received seven serious violations for not maintaining a drenching shower for the employees, training its staff improperly and failing to provide accessible emergency exits. Some of these violations were repeat violations. At the time of reporting, penalties of more than $200,000 had been proposed.

Although companies receive fines and citations for not employing proper safety standards, these remedies may not help protect workers. In some instances, companies continue breaking the rules even after being penalized. OSHA penalties also fail to provide for worker compensation. Those who get hurt in serious workplace accidents often have to seek solutions on their own. Learning how the claims filing process works is essential to pursuing restitution to offset expenses like lost wages and medical bills.

Source: OH&S Online, OSHA Determines Open-Flame Heater Likely Cause of Coalgate Fire," June 19, 2015

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