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Gas contractor seeks meeting over citation after fatality

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Parkersburg company plans to meet with federal regulators to discuss safety citations issued following the February death of a worker in an explosion at a natural gas production site in Taylor County.

Central Environmental Services LLC has asked for what's known as an "informal conference" with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said Mark Adkins, a Charleston lawyer representing the company.

OSHA rules allow employers to request such meetings to discuss any issues raised by inspections, citations or proposed fines related to federal safety inspections at workplaces. Employers also can appeal safety citations and fines.

OSHA cited Central Environmental following its investigation of the Feb. 15 death of Brian Hopkins, of Little Hocking, Ohio, in an explosion at a natural gas site where the company was a contractor for EQT Corp.

DEP officials said at the time that the incident appeared to have occurred while Hopkins was attempting to transfer briny wastewater from an onsite tank to a truck that would haul the material to a disposal site. Central Environmental, a contractor for EQT, employed Hopkins.

OSHA issued a serious citation alleging that Central Environmental had employees using headlamps that were not "intrinsically safe" to prevent sparks, fires or explosions.

The citation included a proposed fine of $4,500. OSHA lists violations as serious if "there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known."

Adkins said that OSHA issued that citation based on information gathered during discussions with Central Environmental at its headquarters in Parkersburg, not at the Taylor County site. No headlamp was found at the explosion site, Adkins said.

Adkins said that the OSHA citation "was not in relation to the explosion that occurred in February."

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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