Substandard Industrial Safety Blamed For Commercial Aircraft Fire

Industrial Hygiene Expert

This case involves several pilots that perished in a commercial aircraft fire. The fire occurred at an industrial gas dispensing station. As one of the pilots was dispensing the gas, the pump sparked and caused the plane to catch on fire and explode. Further investigation revealed that there was no arrester or any other device on site to prevent spark. An expert in industrial safety was sought to opine on the liability for this accident as well as the safest types of pumps for industrial facilities.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your industrial safety experience with regards to industrial fuel dispensaries.
  • 2. What are the OSHA standards with regards to the types of pumps that should be used in this area?

Expert Witness Response E-164531

I was a contractor with an aerospace and defense company supporting Navy shore-based activities under the mishap prevention and hazard abatement program. I have evaluated numerous fueling stations for vehicles and aircraft. Additionally, I am an associate professor of safety engineering and technology as well as hazardous material management and am familiar with the OSHA and department of transportation regulations regarding hazardous materials. Commercial fuel pumps need spark arresters. The OSHA standards with regard to the types of pumps that should be used depend on the location of the event (federal land vs. private, industry vs. construction vs. a mine site). Assuming this was a private organization, this falls under general industry.

Expert Witness Response E-169813

I have worked in the field of oil and gas and petroleum for 32 years and my experience entails the safety of these facilities. The pumps used at a place like this must be equipped with spark/flame arrestors. There are numerous standards that mandate bonding and grounding in the design and operation of equipment used to store and handle flammable and combustible liquids, including fire code, flammable and combustible liquids code, code for motor fuel dispensing facilities and repair garages, electrical equipment maintenance, and others. Recommended practice for static electricity and protection against ignitions arising out of static, lightning, and stray currents, provide detailed discussions on static electric charge, the evaluation of charge generation, and bonding and grounding. Additionally, electrical devices and installations in specifically designated areas where flammable materials are handled should comply with the requirements for class I group D hazardous locations.


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