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Contractors Fined in Fire that Injured 3

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

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Federal regulators have slapped 22 citations and $60,200 in fines on two government contractors in a flash fire that erupted inside some insulation ductwork and severely burned three workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited two businesses of the Emcor Group Inc. in Arlington, VA, in the November 2012 fire.

Emcor Government Services and EEC Inc. in Landover, MD, were both cited for a variety of serious safety violations, including flammable vapor hazards that were found while the contractors replaced commercial ductwork insulation at a building in Washington, D.C.

Emcor Government Services
Emcor Government Services

Emcor Government Services, a provider of government building services, was cited for allowing hot work (welding) in a confined space where flammable vapors were present.

The parent company did not respond Monday (May 20) to a request for comment.

Hot-Work Hazards

Emcor Government Services was cited with six serious violations, carrying a $35,000 penalty, for failing to:

  • Control flammable vapors;
  • Address hazards associated with working in confined spaces;
  • Identify precautions during hot work operations;
  • Ensure safe performance of welding operations in a flammable atmosphere; and
  • Ensure the use of approved electrical equipment in a flammable atmosphere.

EEC Inc. faces a $25,200 penalty for 16 serious violations, including failing to:

  • Properly use a ladder and store highly flammable material;
  • Control flammable vapors;
  • Identify precautions during hot work operations;
  • Perform a hazard assessment to determine correct personal protective equipment;
  • Recognize hazards associated with working in confined spaces;
  • Ensure workplace safety during welding operations in a flammable atmosphere;
  • Provide hazardous communication training; and
  • Ensure the use of approved electrical equipment in a flammable atmosphere.
Emcor Group Inc.

Connecticut-based EMCOR Group Inc. is a Fortune 500 provider of mechanical and electrical construction, energy infrastructure, LEED construction, design/build, and facilities services.

EEC employees were seen climbing into ducts from the top of a step ladder, and the contractor had 26 gallons of a highly flammable adhesive near a confined space that had "a number of known ignition sources," including portable electric work lights and welding activity, according to OSHA's citations.

A serious citation reflects substantial probability of death or serious physical harm from a hazard about which the employer knew, or should have known.

Confined-Space Fire Hazards

"Confined spaces are commonly characterized by toxic, oxygen-deficient or flammable atmospheres that can be deadly for employees working in those spaces," said Michael Stracka, acting director of OSHA's Baltimore Area Office.

"No worker should ever enter a confined space until the atmosphere has been tested, atmospheric hazards have been eliminated or proper respiratory protection is supplied and used, and adequate rescue procedures are in place."

OSHA offers detailed information on confined-space hazards and proper work procedures.

Hot work in confined space

OSHA offers information to help control the hazards of hot work in a confined space. Three workers were injured when a flash fire erupted in ductwork during welding.

Although other Emcor companies have been cited and inspected by OSHA, the agency's records show no  inspections or violations for Emcor Government Services or EEC in the past five years.

Both contractors have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the case before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

About the Company

With more than 27,000 employees in more than 170 locations worldwide, Norwalk, CT-based EMCOR Group Inc. is a Fortune 500 provider of mechanical and electrical construction, energy infrastructure, LEED construction, design/build, life safety, and facilities services for commercial, manufacturing, industrial and other markets.

EMCOR Government Services provides government building services and state building maintenance services nationwide. EEC (Environmental Engineering Company) Inc. provides duct cleaning and other environmental services.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Confined space; Fire; Government contracts; Insulation; Personal protective equipment; Respiratory Protection Standard; Worker training

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