Anthony Aguirre, 18, Donald Dejaynes, 43, Gary Foster, 48, Dupree Holt, 37 and James St. Peters, 52 were the five maintenance workers killed on Tuesday afternoon in a tunnel fire at the Xcel hydro-electric plant near Georgetown, Colorado. If you want any information about the fatal workplace incident, don’t bother visiting OSHA’s website; you’ll find not a word about this workplace disaster.
I’ve been peeved (as have many others) for MSHA’s failure to provide up-to-date and accurate information about mining fatalities and its accident investigation process. Should we not hold OSHA to the same standard? Do we have any assurance that OSHA will keep families better apprized of its investigation proceedings than MSHA did after the Sago disaster and now with the Crandall Canyon tragedy?
Because OSHA has not yet provided information on the accident and their action to-date, we are forced to rely on “non-official” information, including ongoing coverage by the Denver Post. In their stories, we’ve learned the names and ages of the five deceased men, and that all of them had traveled to Colorado from California to perform this work. (How especially awful for their loved ones who were so far away from the accident scene.)
We don’t know which OSHA employees are conducting the investigation, but the Denver Post is reporting that an OSHA Area Director named Herb Gibson will be sharing some critical information with the investigators.
“Federal investigators said today they will determine if contractors coating a tunnel near a Georgetown hydroelectric plan were warned about safety concerns the day before a fire killed five men. ’That will be something we’ll include in our questioning,’ Herb Gibson [OSHA] said this morning. ‘I’ll pass it along to the investigators.’
“Family members of Anthony Aguirre…told The Post yesterday that his supervisor from RPI Coating, Inc. of Sante Fe Springs, Calif., told the crew that it was not safe to work in the tunnel the day before the fire broke out.”
This same Denver Post story also quoted OSHA’s Gibson with:
“‘We’re going to interview workers and supervisors about conditions prior to the incident and on the day of the fire. We haven’t reached any conclusions yet.’ …The family of Donald Dejaynes of Sun City, Calif., questioned why the plant did not have stairs up the steep portion of the tunnel or have an alternate means of escaping the tunnel.”
These questions and the others that family members may have are all legitimate topics for OSHA’s investigators to pursue. Whether or not OSHA’s HQ decides to post updates about this terrible incident on its website is less important to me than a plan and promise that the families of the five deceased workers receive frequent communications with OSHA investigators on the status of their work.