OSHA cites freight firm in August explosion in St. Louis

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found Saia Motor Freight Line guilty of one willful and 11 safety and health violations connected with an Aug. 6, 2014 explosion at its St. Louis terminal, according to an article on WorkersCompensation.com.

The online article reported that OSHA has proposed penalties of $119,000 for the explosion that critically injured two employees and hospitalized two others.

OSHA investigators reported that two forklift operators were changing a propane tank on an LNG-powered forklift inside a freight trailer when a loose coupling connection allowed the tank to leak, vaporize and ignite, causing a flash fire.

“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 found that Saia did not properly evacuate the area after the release of the flammable gas; require the exchange of propane tanks in an adequately ventilated area; mount gas containers correctly; train workers on flammable gas hazards; and require use of hand and eye protection when changing cylinders.

The company also failed to train powered industrial truck operators, and several electrical safety hazards were noted, according to OSHA investigators.

Based in Duluth, Georgia, Saia has 147 terminals covering 34 states and Canada. It employs approximately 8,000 workers. The company has about 150 employees at the St. Louis terminal who perform cross-dock operations.