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OSHA Cites Two Florida Companies for Gas Station Explosion

by Motyka Johnson

On August 19, 2011, a massive fire broke out at a BP gas station on State Route 16 just outside of Saint Augustine, Florida. A half mile radius was evacuated around the station, the highway was closed, and over 4000 homes and businesses lost power as three fire and rescue units fought to contain the blaze. An employee was seriously injured in the incident.

Following a six month investigation, OSHA has cited Coomes Oil & Supply Inc., doing business as the 5th Wheel BP gas station in St. Augustine, and Florida Rock & Tank Lines Inc for serious and willful violations.

According to an OSHA news release, the incident happened when a Florida Rock & Tank Lines delivery driver was refilling an above-ground gasoline storage tank that had a broken gauge. The tank overflowed, and the combination of vapors and heat from the running delivery truck caused an explosion. OSHA’s inspection found that the gas station and Florida Rock & Tank Lines decided to refill the storage tank even though the liquid level gauging system was inoperable.

OSHA has proposed a $70,000 fine against Florida Rock & Tank Lines along with a citation for one willful violation. This violation is for “failing to provide the delivery driver to determine if the storage tank had enough capacity for additional gasoline.”

A $7,000 fine has been proposed for Coomes for a “serious violation” because there was substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Each organization will have 15 business days, by Indiana law, to pay the penalties or to contest them to the Indiana Board of Safety Review.

A few things about this incident caught my attention. First, I think it is interesting that Florida Rock and Tank Lines was issued the maximum fine for the willful violation, and Cooms was issued the minimum fine carried by its violation. That may indicate that OSHA investigators found higher liability in the dangerous process rather than the dangerous equipment.

The second part of the incident that caught my attention is that the gas station is one of the last in the country to use above ground fuel tanks. I wouldn’t be surprised if this incident triggers targeted inspections for above ground fuel tanks at automotive businesses. If you have above ground storage tanks at your facility, make sure that monthly inspections are conducted as required by SPCC regulations, and that all safety features are in good working condition.

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