Workplace Safety

Welder Died in Explosion at Gas Pipeline Plant

Scope

  • Claims by Plaintiff: Workplace-Construction-Explosion-Safety
    Wrongful Death-Survival Damages-Worker/Workplace Negligence by Non-Employee
  • Decedent was a journeyman welder for a contractor, and was performing repairs inside a six-story-high gas-treating tower at a pipeline plant when an explosion occurred and killed him.
  • McDowell Owens Engineering was hired by counsel for one of the defense parties to analyze the scene and all available data to attempt to determine all factors related to the incident.

Case Summary

Claims by Plaintiff:

  • Defendants failed to isolate the tower properly & prevent combustibles from entering it before welding & grinding began inside
  • Defendants did not warn of the presence of combustibles
  • Defendants did not follow applicable industry standards regarding “hot work” and confined spaces
  • Attempting to isolate the tower by shutting off certain valves was ineffective since there was a bypass valve in the linkage to the tower
  • The bypass was found to be leaking several weeks after the explosion
  • No “blinds” were inserted in the linkage before the work began
  • The device used for checking the atmosphere in the tower had not been recalibrated since arriving at the plant
  • The tower was ventilated with a non-explosion-proof fan
  • Residual hydrocarbons were present in the tower when work began
  • Decedent had not been issued a required confined-space entry permit

Evidence and Defendants’ Response:

  1. Evidence conflicted as to whether any lockout/tagout procedures were in use on the valves at time of explosion
  2. Defendants’ denied any legal responsibility for explosion, on the grounds that decedent’s employer, not Defendants, controlled the details of his work & had primary responsibility for his safety

McDowell Owens Engineering was hired by one of the Defendants to analyze the following:

  • Lockout/Tagout procedures
  • Proper preparation of the subject vessel prior to and at the time of the incident
  • Proper request/issuance of “hot work” permits and confined space entry permits
  • Proper monitoring of the atmosphere within the vessel
  • Potential fuel and ignition sources that could have caused the incident
  • Verifying evidence concerning the decedent smoking within the vessel
  • Determine if resulting explosion could have been caused by decedent smoking within the vessel

Result

One Defendant settled with the plaintiffs for $1,425,000 and with the intervenor for $20,000.

Our client settled with the Plaintiffs for a total of $200,000 and intended to pursue a contractual indemnity claim for the cost of defending against the plaintiffs’ claims.

Our client indicated that the $200,000 would have been about the cost of the defense going forward.

Finding the Truth Behind the How and Why