gavelThe widow of an Oswego County New York man is suing a water treatment plant and a construction company in his death in an explosion at the village's wastewater treatment facility last year.

Kelly claims the death of her husband, Richard C. Whitney Jr., was a result of the township plant and M. Hubbard Construction Inc. not providing a safe work environment.

How it happened

Richard Whitney, 58, of Bernhards Bay, was welding a pipe inside an underground methane collection dome at the Canastota Wastewater Treatment Plant on Sept.11 last year when a buildup of the gas exploded.

Whitney suffered third-degree burns to most of his body and died three days later at a burn center in Boston. He was working for Joy Process Mechanical Inc., a subcontractor for Hubbard Construction.

A second worker was standing on a stepladder at an opening to the confined space when the gas exploded. That worker was treated at a hospital for burns on his arms and face.and released the next day

A ventilation system set up for the dome was inadequate for the job, according to thelawsuit.

What OSHA found

OSHA found serious workplace safety violations led to the explosion that killed Whitney and injured another worker. OSHA proposed a total fine of $45,720 against Joy Process Mechanical and Hubbard Construction Inc.

OSHA said the two workers were not provided with a meter to test for the presence of combustible gas. The confined space also lacked adequate ventilation and a system for swift exits in an emergency, the agency said.

Hubbard Construction was also cited for misuse of a ladder and for using electrical equipment that had not been rated safe in a hazardous atmosphere, the agency said.

The village of Canastota hired the two companies to replace pipes inside the methane gas dome.


The Syracuse Post-Standard