FARMINGTON — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration closed its inspections of C.N. Brown and Cornerstone Plumbing and Heating on March 17 with no violation citations issued in the deadly propane explosion last year.

The explosion at the Life Enrichment Advancing People building at 313 Farmington Falls Road on Sept. 16, 2019, claimed the life of Farmington Fire Rescue Capt. Michael Bell, and injured six other firefighters and a LEAP maintenance supervisor.

Besides destroying the LEAP building, the blast heavily damaged or blew apart a number of nearby homes.

C.N. Brown based in South Paris and Cornerstone in Farmington were two of four businesses OSHA inspected for their actions in the days leading up to the explosion. C.N. Brown supplied the propane for LEAP’s building and Cornerstone worked at the building.

OSHA fined LEAP $12,145 and Techno Metal Post Maine LLC of Manchester $4,048 this month for serious violations of health and safety regulations.

OSHA said the reasons for the citations for both companies were: “The employer did not initiate and maintain programs which provided for frequent and regular inspections of the job site, materials and equipment to be made by a competent person. LEAP Office, parking lot, the employer failed to ensure that a competent person inspected the job site to determine the location of underground hazards prior to allowing the ground to be penetrated and
installing bollards.

“When OSHA issues a citation to an employer, it also offers the employer an opportunity for an informal conference with the OSHA Area Director to discuss citations, penalties, abatement dates, or any other information pertinent to the inspection. OSHA and the employer may work out a settlement agreement to resolve the matter and to eliminate the hazard,” according to OSHA.

LEAP and Techno Metal Post Maine have until April 17 to either contest the citation or pay it. Neither had contested or paid the fine as of Tuesday, according to a U.S. Department of Labor spokesman.

Techno Metal Post Maine has contested a $1,000 fine issued by the Maine Public Utilities Commission for violating the Dig Safe law that required the company to call before doing any excavation and for failure to properly premark the area of the proposed excavation near a recently installed 400-gallon propane tank.

According to the PUC investigation, Michael Brochu, owner of Techno Metal Post Maine, installed three bollards at LEAP’s site Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. That installation met the definition of “excavation” contained in the PUC rules on underground facility damage prevention requirements. The company was fined $500 for each violation and has since filed an appeal.

An informal conference is scheduled for Wednesday for the PUC fine.

Following a monthslong investigation, the Office of the State Fire Marshal issued a statement in January revealing the deadly explosion ignited days after an underground propane line was severed during the installation of one of four bollards that had been drilled into the ground near the building by an employee of Techno Metal Post Maine.

The posts were installed to protect an outside air conditioning unit next to the building. The propane line was buried about 2½ to 3 feet under the parking lot and connected the propane tank behind the property to the building through the basement wall at the rear corner. The parking lot had been paved after installation of the propane line last summer. The metal bollards are about 4 inches thick, but each has an auger head which is 10½ inches wide that allows the post to be drilled into the ground.  The auger head severed the propane line encased in a plastic protective sleeve.

 

 

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