Saturday, April 03, 2004

Blueprint for a Deathtrap

Firm's Owner Sentenced for Killing Worker and Burning Another

The owner of a Washington State company was sentenced by a California court to a year in jail, for killing one workers and seriously burning another in a 2001 explosion in Chico, CA.
Howard Jacobsen, the company's owner, was personally supervising the removal of petroleum residue from one of several 50-foot high gasoline storage tanks at the Jesse Lange Distributor site on the Midway south of Chico Feb. 13, 2001, when a fiery explosion that rocked the city. Investigators concluded the explosion occurred when static electricity ignited residual fumes.

Jack Nickerson Jr., 36, of Empire, Stanislaus County, was inside the tank when it exploded and was killed outright.

Randall Barclay, who at the time was working for a local subcontractor, Chico Drain and Oil, suffered second and third degree burns over more than 60 percent of his body.
Jacobsen must also perform 200 hours of community service and reimburse the burned worker $1.3 million in medical costs. As part of an earlier plea bargain, Jacobsen's company, Northern Lights Mechanical Inc., of Everett, Wash., agreed to pay $250,000 in criminal penalties after admitting to numerous worker's safety violations in connection with the fatal Chico tank explosion.
Barclay said he had no training in dealing with "flammable removal," received no special instructions on how to do the job safely and that "the only safety equipment I had on was a hard hat."

"I'm not out for vengeance, but I do want justice," the injured worker said, asking the judge to sentence the firm's owner to prison.

Echoing those comments, state prosecutor Gale Filter charged the cleanup company willfully violated numerous worker's safety regulations, including failing to clear and continuously monitor for flammable fumes inside the tank and not properly grounding cleanup equipment.

In seeking a mid-term term of two years, eight months in prison for the cleanup company's owner, Filter declared: "Every corner that could be neglected in terms of safety was cut ... this was a blueprint for a deathtrap."
The company has already been slapped with 28 citations and fined almost $245,000 by California's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA).