Connecticut VA cited for deaths of workers in November 2020 steam line explosion at West Haven campus

5.13 VA west haven_283296

Conn. (WTNH) — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System (VACT) has been cited for the deaths of workers in a steam line explosion on their West Haven campus last year.

An inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration has determined Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System failed to protect employees from struck-by and burn hazards after two workers were killed in November 2020 when a steam line the workers had just finished repairing exploded.

A report released Wednesday mentions numerous deficiencies that lead to the deaths and states the deaths could have been prevented if safety measures had been followed.

These fatalities could have been prevented if the employer had complied with safety standards that are designed to prevent the uncontrolled release of steam. Tragically, these well-known protective measures were not in place and two workers needlessly lost their lives.”

– OSHA Area Director Steven Biasi in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

OSHA found that VACT failed to:

  • Properly shutdown to avoid additional or increased hazard(s) to employees.
  • Relieve or render safe all potentially hazardous residual energy such as condensate water.
  • Maintain adequate procedures for isolating each steam main branch supplying campus buildings.
  • Conduct a periodic inspection of all lockout-tagout procedures to correct any deviations or inadequacies.
  • Provide adequate training to supervisory employees.
  • Retrain employees when there was a change in their job assignments, or a change in machines, equipment or processes that presented a new hazard.
  • Notify affected employees of the application and removal of lockout or tagout devices.
  • Inform Mulvaney Mechanical of VACT’s lockout/tagout procedures.
  • Ensure each authorized employee affix a personal lockout or tagout device to the group lockout device before working on the machine or equipment.

The press release also says nine notices of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions were issued to VACT for one willful, three repeat, and five serious violations.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal reacted to the findings:

This critical report strongly reinforces my repeated calls for renovating and rebuilding the VA West Haven facility to bring it into the 21st century. Like many such facilities around the country – but more so – this hospital desperately and urgently needs significant, serious investment. Our veterans deserve no less. Dedicated doctors, nurses, and other medical staff continue to provide world-class healthcare at this facility while coping with aging, decaying, and outmoded facilities.”

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal

RELATED: Senator Blumenthal seeks VA facility probe amid whistleblower claims

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