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After Blast Injures Workers at Texas Site, Questions Are Raised About Energy Company's Safety Records

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A recent explosion at a south Texas energy company raises questions abou t the company's health and safety record.

Two workers were injured a few weeks ago after a fracking tank exploded in a facility owned by Vann Energy Services LLC. Vann Energy provides trucking and oilfield support services.

According to a spokesperson from Vann Energy, the men had been cleaning a hydraulic fracturing tank at a maintenance facility near Nixon, Texas, when the tank exploded. Reuters reported that the injured workers were transported to a hospital in San Antonio.

The incident raises questions because in February the U.S. Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) had cited the Vann Energy for a number of serious violations. One of the items noted during the inspection was that the company did not test for "atmospheric hazards" before requiring workers to enter and clean fracking tanks. The workers were also not trained on the hazards of confined spaces.

According to Reuters, at the time, OSHA's Austin director, Casey Perkins, noted that "Confined space and electrical hazards like the ones found at this site can kill workers. It is fortunate these hazards were identified before anyone was seriously injured." Despite the hazards being identified three months ago, it appears that the company failed to take proper action before two workers were seriously hurt.

The February inspection lead to citations for at least 17 violations, including failures to: provide workers with proper protective clothing, provide chemical hazard training, maintain electrical cords, provide covers for open pits and to ensure that equipment (like fans) were approved for hazardous places. OSHA proposed to fine the company over $70,000 for the violations.

OSHA has not commented since the explosion, and it is unclear whether the company took any measures to fix the previous violations.

Working in the oil and gas industry is dangerous enough, but when employers do not provide the proper safety equipment and training, the risk of a serious oil and gas worker injury increases.

Source: Reuters.com, "UPDATE: Two workers hurt in Texas fracking tank site blast," 5/16/12.

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