Freight Line Explosion

An explosion at a St. Louis trucking terminal left four employees hospitalized – two of whom were critically injured.

The Aug. 6, 2014 explosion at Saia Motor Freight Line LLC was caused when two forklift operators were changing a propane tank on a liquefied petroleum gas-powered forklift inside a freight trailer. A loose coupling connection allowed liquid propane to leak, vaporize and ignite, resulting in a flash fire, OSHA found.

A 54-year-old lead forklift operator and a 25-year-old newly hired worker with a month’s experience with propane forklifts suffered critical burns.  Another worker sustained burns to his legs while he helped extinguish his coworkers’ clothing.  A fourth worker who was using a forklift nearby also received burns from the explosion.

“Workers must be trained to avoid deadly combinations of flammable fuels, ignition sources and confined spaces, which allow vapors to ignite quickly,” said Bill McDonald, OSHA’s area director in St. Louis. “This incident should remind all employers that using forklifts is one of the hazards workers may face daily.”

OSHA issued a willful violation for Saia’s use of several powered industrial trucks with defective or bypassed safety switches.  It also cited the company with one willful and 11 serious safety and health violations and proposed penalties of $119,000.

OSHA cited the company for several reasons, including:

  • failure to evacuate the work area after flammable gas was released
  • forklift propane containers were not switched in an adequately ventilated area
  • mounted gas containers on the cylinder indexing pin correctly
  • lack of training on extremely flammable gas hazards
  • did not require hand and eye protection when changing cyliners
  • failed to label hazardous chemicals
  • lack of training for powered industrial truck operators
  • electrical hazards

Duluth, Ga.-based Saia Motor employs about 8,000 workers throughout the United States.