St. Louis, MO – A flash fire caused by a propane forklift accident sent four Saia Freight employees to the hospital in August 2014 and has resulted in numerous OSHA fines for the company.
Two forklift operators were changing a propane tank on a liquefied petroleum gas-powered forklift inside a freight trailer when a loose coupling connection allowed liquid propane to leak, vaporize, and ignite.
The resulting flash fire caused burns – A lead forklift operator and a newly hired worker suffered critical burns, another worker sustained burns to his legs while he helped extinguish his coworkers’ clothing, and a fourth worker using a forklift nearby also received burns.
As a result, OSHA has cited Saia Motor with one willful and 11 serious safety and health violations and proposed penalties of $119,000. OSHA issued a willful violation for Saia’s use of several powered industrial trucks with defective or bypassed safety switches.
“Workers must be trained to avoid deadly combinations of flammable fuels, ignition sources and confined spaces, which allow vapors to ignite quickly,” said Bill McDonald, OSHA’s area director in St. Louis. “This incident should remind all employers that using forklifts is one of the hazards workers may face daily.”
OSHA issued serious violations for: not evacuating the work area after flammable gas was released (fire evacuation plans were not carried out); not requiring forklift propane containers be switched in an adequately ventilated area; mounting gas containers on the cylinder indexing pin correctly; training workers on extremely flammable gas hazards; requiring hand and eye protection when changing cylinders; labeling hazardous chemicals in the maintenance; and training powered industrial truck operators. Several electrical safety hazards also were found.
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