Connecticut VA Hospital Failed to Protect Workers in Deadly Steam Explosion

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, has concluded a comprehensive investigation of a steam explosion at a Connecticut VA hospital that occurred at the end of 2020. Two people working on the steam system at the Connecticut VA hospital located in West Haven were killed as a result of the steam explosion. In its report, OSHA concluded that the accident and the deaths of the two workers could have been completed avoided.

Horrific Deaths at West Haven VA Hospital

The two men killed in the Connecticut VA hospital steam explosion were Euel Sims and Joseph O’Donnell. Sims was a Navy veteran and O’Donnell was a contractor hired to assist with the facility’s steam system.

Stating that these two men endured horrific deaths is an understatement. They were in the immediate vicinity of where the system explosion occurred, which sent torrents of steam upon them. They had no hope of survival and were declared dead at the scene.

Deaths at the Connecticut VA Hospital were Completely Avoidable

The fact that these two dedicated workers suffered incomprehensible deaths is made worse by the fact that the OSHA investigation has made clear that they didn’t need to have been in this situation at all. OSHA made clear in its report that the West Haven VA Hospital completely failed to comply with basic safety standards.

OSHA made a clear, definitive statement when it released its report on the steam explosion and the deaths of the two workers. OSHA Area Director Steven Biasi stated:

“These fatalities could have been prevented if the employer had complied with safety standards that are designed to prevent the uncontrolled release of steam. Tragically, these well-known protective measures were not in place and two workers needlessly lost their lives.”

Multiple Violations Cited at VA Hospital

In its report on the comprehensive investigation of the Connecticut VA Hospital steam explosion, OSHA identified various specific safety violations at the facility:

  • Failure to properly shutdown steam system to avoid additional or increased hazards to workers
  • Failure to relieve or otherwise render safe all potentially hazardous residual energy in the steam system, including condensate water
  • Failure to maintain appropriate, adequate practices and procedures for isolating each steam main branch supplying campus buildings
  • Failure to conduct regular inspections of all lockout-tagout procedures in order to correct any inadequacies or deviations
  • Lack of appropriate, adequate training of supervisor employees at the facility
  • Lack of proper worker training when there was a change in job assignments, equipment, machines, or processes
  • Failure to notify affected workers of the application or removal or tagout or lockout devices associated with the steam system
  • Failure to inform the independent contractor providing services to the steam system at the facility (Mulvaney Mechanical) of tagout and lockout procedures
  • Failure to ensure that each authorized worker affix a personal lockout of tagout device to the group lockout device in advance of working on equipment or the machine

Because of these specifically identified deficiencies, nine notices of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions were issued by OSHA to the New Haven VA Hospital in Connecticut. The level of these multiple OSHA violations are:

  • One willful violation
  • Three repeat violations
  • Five serious violations

Information on penalties and sanctions to be imposed on the Connecticut VA Hospital have yet to be identified publicly by OSHA.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an explosion accident, or if you’ve lost a family member in that type of tragic incident, the committed, experienced, tenacious legal team at The Doan Law Firm is here for you. You can reach us around the clock, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year by calling us at (800) 349-0000.

A nationwide law firm, we can schedule an initial consultation with an explosion accident lawyer at any one of our 40 offices located from coast-to-coast in the United States. We can also schedule a virtual case evaluation with an explosion accident lawyer online as well. There is never a charge for an initial consultation.


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