An explosion claimed the life of a welder and injured one co-worker at the DuPont Plant in Tonawanda New York last week. The work site accident leaves safety questions in its aftermath. The fatal workplace accident occurred just after 11:00 in the morning as workers from a Buffalo mechanical contracting company worked on a storage tank.
DuPont had taken the storage tank out of service for maintenance work. The chemical company hired workers from the mechanical contractor to perform welding on the tank. A 57-year-old welder was on top of the tank welding a bracket on the tank when the explosion occurred. The blast reportedly blew the lid of the tank, killing the welder instantly.
A second contractor reportedly was on the ground and sustained burns. The second worker is being treated for his injuries at the ECMC Burn Unit.
The workers were employed by a small Buffalo, New York, mechanical contracting company that says they have never had a serious accident in the company’s one-hundred year history. Both the mechanical contracting Company and DuPont believe all safety precautions were observed before the accident. The storage tank reportedly had been washed out several times and was subjected to air monitoring before the maintenance work had begun.
DuPont and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have launched investigations into the cause of the accident. Arthur Dube, an OSHA investigator, says there may have been “a little bit of some unknown material left in the tank.” The nature of any material that may have remained in the tank is unknown at this time.
Normally workplace injuries are controlled under worker compensation laws. In some instances, a worker may be able to bring a third party personal injury or wrongful death claim if an injury or fatality occurs as a result of an act or omission of a third party that is not the worker’s employer.