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OSHA fines FirstEnergy, Enerfab for deadly Bruce Mansfield Power Plant accident

| Monday, March 5, 2018, 2:09 p.m.
Bruce Mansfield Power Plant in Shippingport
Tom Fontaine | Tribune-Review
Bruce Mansfield Power Plant in Shippingport

The U.S. Department of Labor has cited two companies for safety violations that contributed to the deaths of two workers overcome by poisonous gas at the coal-fired Bruce Mansfield Power Plant in August.

During an investigation at the plant in Shippingport, Beaver County, officials found 14 serious violations against Cincinnati-based Enerfab and 11 against Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy — all of which were corrected during the inspection, according to the citation document.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued $129,340 in fines to Enerfab, a contractor, and $77,604 in fines to FirstEnergy, the owner of the plant, the document says.

The companies have until March 20 if they want to contest the findings, and Enerfab plans to do so.

Five workers hired by Enerfab were in a pit performing maintenance at the power plant on Aug. 30 when they removed an elbow joint from a pipe that contained hydrogen sulfide gas, which is poisonous, flammable and categorized as “extremely hazardous.”

The gas flow was not shut off before the work began.

The gas killed Kevin Patrick Bachner, 34, and John Michael Gorchock, 42, both of Pittsburgh. Authorities said at the time of the incident that the two weren't able to get out of the pit as it filled with gas.

In addition, three Enerfab employees and one FirstEnergy employee were sent to the hospital with injuries. Officials previously did not list a FirstEnergy employee among the injured.

Federal officials fined both companies for failing to provide the proper training and respiratory protection equipment to the workers.

Enerfab faces fines for failing to identify and evaluate the hazards before workers entered the pit, failing to continuously monitor the area for hydrogen sulfide, failing to provide an attendant to wait outside, having no procedure in place to provide rescue and emergency services, and not informing the workers of the hazards they could face and their symptoms, the OSHA document said.

Enerfab plans to contest all 14 violations, CEO Scott Anderson said.

Anderson declined comment on whether the company has made changes as a result of the incident or had any fault in the incident.

He said safety is a priority for the company.

“Whenever we're planning our work based on the scopes given we always are looking at that and doing what we can do to plan safety into those,” Anderson said.

This was the first OSHA citation for the company, founded in 1901, Anderson said. The company still contracts with FirstEnergy at the plant.

Federal officials fined FirstEnergy for making changes to the pit without reclassifying it as a “permit-required space,” which carries certain requirements.

FirstEnergy implemented a number of safety measures after the incident and will review the citation report to determine if additional steps should be taken to prevent this type of accident, said Stephanie Walton, a FirstEnergy spokeswoman.

“Safety remains our top priority, and we are committed to fully understanding the cause of this accident to ensure our employees and contractors are working in the safest possible conditions,” Walton said.

The company has not yet determined whether it will contest the violations, Walton said.

The plant is FirstEnergy's largest coal-fired power plant.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, tclift@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tclift.

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