OSHA Fines Company Over Natural Gas Explosion

June 6, 2013

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined a Lewiston, Idaho, construction company for its role in a natural gas explosion in the city’s downtown last November.

OSHA cited M.L. Albright and Sons for failing to anticipate the change in the depth of the natural gas line, which was hit with an excavator bucket, The Lewiston Tribune reported Tuesday.

OSHA proposed a $4,900 fine on March 1 and reduced it to $2,450. Department of Labor spokesman Jose Carnevali said half of the fine has been paid.

Company owner Wayne Albright said the company took numerous steps to determine the depth of the natural gas line. He said workers dug holes 20 to 30 feet apart and believed the pipe ran in a straight line between them. However, the pipe had a spot where it was not buried as deep because it was buried over other utilities.

“The last pass with the excavator before we were going to start hand digging nicked the top of the pipe,” Albright said. “It was really rocky soil.”

Debris blew out the excavator’s windshield. The driver of the excavator rolled his ankle as he jumped off the machine to run away from the blast, Albright said.

The machine was left running and the natural gas was ingested into the excavator, sparking the fire, Albright said.

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