OSHA has cited five companies for serious safety and health violations following a combustible dust flash fire that released hydrogen sulfide at the Eustace Gas Processing Plant in Eustace and hospitalized five workers. Proposed penalties total $125,300.

"Employees working in a confined space were exposed to hydrogen sulfide, a highly toxic and flammable gas that can affect the nervous system," said Stephen Boyd, OSHA's area director in Dallas. "If management had ensured that proper health and safety measures were followed during vacuuming of explosive dust, it is possible this incident could have been avoided."

OSHA's Dallas Area Office began the investigation Oct. 10, 2010, at the plant on County Road 2854, after workers were injured while vacuuming explosive dust to clean out a natural gas processing unit. Alvin-based Team Industrial Services, a mechanical and piping systems services company, was cited with seven violations. Among these are failing to evaluate permit-required confined space conditions, verify that conditions in a permit space were acceptable for entry, identify acceptable entry conditions, and conduct a process hazard analysis to determine the fire protection and explosion prevention provisions necessary when vacuuming combustible dust. Proposed penalties total $49,000.

Tristream East Texas LLC, the owner and operator of the facility, was cited with seven violations including failing to establish or implement an emergency action plan, maintain ladders in a safe condition and evaluate a prospective rescue service's ability to function appropriately while rescuing workers from a permit space. Proposed penalties total $34,300. Tristream East Texas in Eustace is a subsidiary of Sugar Land-based Tristream Energy LLC.

Two Kilgore-based companies each were cited with three violations. They are Benchmark Industrial Services, doing business as Waterblastco, an industrial services company, and RHI Co., doing business as Canon Safety, a safety and health monitoring company. Both failed to protect employees from being struck by or caught between a crane's rotating superstructure, and to maintain material safety data sheets that are readily accessible to employees. Proposed penalties total $18,900 and $14,700 for Benchmark Industrial Services and RHI, respectively.

Maybank-based Crane Services Implement was cited with two violations for failing to ensure the crane was level and blocked when necessary, and to protect workers from being struck by or caught between a crane's rotating superstructure. Proposed penalties total $8,400.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.