The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has fined a public works contractor more than $235,000—and threatened to put it out of business and criminally prosecute executives—after a welder suffered severe burns in a workplace flash fire.
Cal/OSHA cited TL Pavlich Construction for repeat willful violations, saying it failed to monitor dangerous gas and contaminant levels in welding operations under a residential street in Montebello. Cal/OSHA claims that the violations contributed to a flash fire in December 2010.
The Central Basin Municipal Water District hired Pavlich to lay 12 miles of pipe for a water project in an area, once the site of oil and gas wells and known for methane gas leaks. An investigation showed that while the welder was 40 feet inside the pipe, he dropped his equipment, causing a spark that ignited accumulated gas.
The welder then crawled out of the pipe while suffering second- and third-degree burns to his face.
Cal/OSHA claims that Pavlich failed to train employees to work safely in confined spaces and didn’t provide safety equipment that would have ventilated flammable gas. The agency also said workers lacked personal monitors that would have alerted them to dangerous conditions. Investigators also determined that the work-site foreman hadn’t been trained on hazards associated with the job.
In addition to fines, Pavlich could be barred from future public works contracts, and could lose its business license. Cal/OSHA plans to refer the incident to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for a possible criminal investigation.