The largest power plant in Pennsylvania and an Ohio-based engineering company have been issued fines by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for their roles in an industrial accident that led to the deaths of two workers and injury of four others. The workers were exposed to a toxic gas, hydrogen sulfide, while inside a confined area of the plant. According to OSHA, the workers were part of a maintenance crew that was working on a pipe carrying water, hydrogen sulfide and ash slurry. When the workers removed an elbow joint in the pipe, the deadly gas was released and two of the workers were unable to make it out of the area alive.
According to OSHA, hydrogen sulfide is a flammable, poisonous gas that may be produced in the oil and gas refining, mining, tanning, pulp and paper processing and rayon manufacturing industries. It also occurs naturally in sewers, manure pits, well water, oil and gas wells and volcanoes. It is a highly toxic gas, especially when present in low-lying, confined, poorly ventilated spaces.
Even at low concentrations, hydrogen sulfide can cause headaches, eye irritation, unconsciousness and even death. OSHA has standards governing the acceptable levels of toxic substances such as hydrogen sulfide and employers who do not comply with such standards may be subject to penalties.
Upon investigation, OSHA found that the power plant failed to alert its contractor to the dangers of working in the enclosed vault and failed to provide workers with appropriate respiratory protection. Consequently, the Pennsylvania-based power plant was fined $77,605 and the contractor was fined $129,340.
According to OSHA, the plant was inspected six times since 2007 and was cited for violations in 2011 and 2013. The company paid $15,500 to settle those violations. The company is now conducting an internal review to determine the appropriate response to prevent this type of accident in the future, according to its spokeswoman. She says that safety is the company’s top priority and that they are committed to ensuring that their employees and contractors are working in the safest possible conditions.
When workers suffer an industrial accident like the one in this case, they may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation. In Pennsylvania, injured workers may receive compensation for medical expenses, wage-loss compensation benefits and other injury or illness-related expenses under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Additionally, death benefits are available for the survivors of workers who were killed in on-the-job accidents or who died from exposure to toxic substances at work.
If you were or your loved one was involved in an industrial accident, contact an experienced Pittsburgh work injury lawyer at AlpernSchubert P.C. Our skilled attorneys will work tirelessly to obtain the Workers’ Compensation benefits to which you are entitled. Contact us online or call us at 412-765-1888, or toll-free at 800-243-6095 to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our reputable Workers’ Compensation lawyers. We represent clients in Alleghany County, Lawrence County, Washington County, and throughout Western Pennsylvania from our office conveniently located in Pittsburgh.