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OSHA cites DuPont and Buffalo contractor for fatal explosion

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WBFO News file photo
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Emergency crews at DuPont plan, November 10, 2010

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – DuPont and a Buffalo contractor are cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a fatal explosion last year.

On November 10 of 2010, 57-year-old Richard Folaron of South Wales was killed in the blast at the DuPont plant in Tonawanda, N.Y.

Folaron was employee with Mollenberg-Betz. He had been welding atop of a 10,000 gallon slurry tank when hot sparks ignited flammable vapors inside the tank, causing the fatal explosion. Folaron had been with Mollenburg-Betz for 15 years. 50-year-old William Freeburg of Angola was seriously injured in the explosion.

OSHA said the tank was suppose to be empty, but it was still connected to two operating slurry tanks.

OSHA cites DuPont De Nemours Co. Yerkes Plant and Mollenberg-Betz Inc. for a total of 17 serious violations of workplace safety standards for the fatal accident.

"This death and injury graphically underscore how vitally important it is that employers anticipate the hazards associated with welding in potentially explosive atmospheres, and institute all protective measures before allowing such work to begin," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo.

Both companies are cited for allowing the welding to be conducted in an explosive atmosphere.

Mollenberg-Betz also was cited for eight violations that included not verifying that the slurry tank was empty before welding began and for a lack of specific hazardous energy control procedures.

DuPont also was cited for nine violations that included the following: incomplete hazardous energy control procedures; not inserting blanks or blinds in the interconnected slurry tank overflow line to prevent transmission of flammable vapor into the slurry tank; not informing Mollenberg-Betz of potential explosion hazards related to hot work on the slurry tank; not informing Mollenberg-Betz of the plant's hazardous energy control program; and using unapproved electrical equipment in a hazardous location.

"An injury and illness prevention program, in which employees and management work together to proactively identify and eliminate hazardous conditions on a continual basis, is a powerful tool for preventing needless and preventable incidents such as this one," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

On the day of the incident, James Camoree, vice president for Mollenburg-Betz, said they had no reason to believe the two men would not be safe when they went to the Dupont work site. "We believe we do have an exemplary safety program. We work hand in hand with OSHA as part of their voluntary protection program. We do what we can to make sure our employees go home the same way they come in in thje morning - injury free," said Camoree.