PUEBLO — OSHA records reviewed by News 5 reveal the steel mill where eight workers were injured in an explosion Saturday had previously been cited for putting employees at risk of an explosion and other hazards.
In 2017, OSHA cited EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel for serious safety violations.
"The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were exposed to explosion and struck-by hazards," an OSHA report stated.
The report goes onto say employees were exposed to explosion hazards surrounding the facility’s vacuum tank de-gasser unit (VTD).
“On or about November 30, 2016 and at times prior, employees were exposed to explosion and struck by hazards in that maintenance, inspection and testing procedures were not employed to ensure that the flow switch interlock device stopped VTD operations when water flow was below safe operating parameters,” the citation said.
It also indicated certain fail-safes were not properly in place to prevent an explosion or other hazards.
“The Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) was also programmed with a code that prevented: 1) automatic execution of the shutdown procedure, and 2) the operator station from displaying the flow switch status,” the citation said.
The citation said ultimately because of this, a steam explosion occurred.
“The operator began a heat cycle during an unreported low-flow condition which ultimately resulted in a steam explosion,” it said.
OSHA initially fined EVRAZ $12,675.00 in February 2017. EVRAZ and OSHA reached a settlement in March 2017 agreeing to an $8,500.00 penalty.
While OSHA is still investigating what caused Saturday’s explosion that injured eight workers, EVRAZ officials told News 5 the explosion occurred when some water got into the furnace causing a build-up of pressure.
On Tuesday, a representative for EVRAZ told News 5 Saturday’s explosion was not related to the explosion hazards mentioned in the 2017 citation.
“The [VTD] is in a different location in the mill, and a different piece of equipment, and completely separate and unrelated to the event we experienced on Saturday,” said David Kenney of the Kenney Group, a Denver company representing EVRAZ. “The discrepancies that were identified by OSHA on the vacuum tank de-gasser were addressed at the time.”
While he did not have information on exactly what fixes or changes in procedure were made, he said the company followed all recommendations laid out by OSHA.