The general contractor on the Connecticut powerplant project that suffered a fatal explosion in February says it plans to contest $8.3 million in federal penalties proposed on Aug. 5 for safety violations. O&G Industries Inc., Torrington, Conn., was one of 17 site contractors fined a total of $16.6 million by the U.S. Labor Dept.’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 371 alleged violations related to the blast at the 620-MW Kleen Energy LLC combined-cycle plant in Middletown. Six workers were killed; 50 were injured.
OSHA says the blast occurred after an ignition source made contact with a large amount of natural gas that was vented into areas where it could not easily disperse. “These employers blatantly disregarded well-known and accepted industry procedures and their own safety guidelines,” says OSHA chief David Michaels. The penalty total is the third highest imposed by OSHA related to a single event.
O&G was cited for 139 violations. Keystone Construction and Maintenance Inc., Rowley, Mass., which oversaw the gas-blow operation, was fined $6.68 million for 110 violations. Netherlands-based Bluewater Energy Services Inc., the commissioning contractor, was fined $896,000 for 20 violations. OSHA cited 14 subs for serious hazards. Firms also face civil suits by injured workers and families of those killed, but authorities have not yet said if they will file criminal charges.
An O&G spokesman says, “Issuance of a citation does not constitute a finding that a violation has occurred.” He says the firm was “not performing any work” when the explosion occurred, adding that “subcontractors with specialized knowledge and training that we retained to perform the gas-blows were in charge of all aspects of that operation, including safety.”
O&G says the project had one lost-time incident in 1.7 million work hours before the blast; since then, an additional 600,000 work hours have been logged without incident. Referring to published statements by Michaels related to O&G’s reputed $19-million bonus for the project’s May 31 completion date, the spokesman says, “We also dispute many public assertions made by the agency.”
O&G says project completion has been “pushed back four to six months.” The firm is requesting an extension to June from local authorities but could have the plant online by April.