The chief of a rocket fuel plant destroyed in an explosion May 4 says he will contest $36,455 in fines for 30 alleged safety violations.
The Nevada Division of Occupational Safety and Health is seeking the fines against Pacific Engineering and Production Co. The blast killed two employees at a Henderson plant, injured 326 others and caused about $73 million in damage.The fines were disclosed Thursday by Joseph Kirkbride, information director for the U.S. Department of Labor's regional office in San Francisco. Under state law the Nevada agency is barred from discussing the case.
Fred Gibson, chairman and chief executive officer for the company, called the allegations "wholly without merit, all of them, based on unsubstantiated allegations that have not yet been proven."
"We have asked for the evidence and whatever other data these charges are based on. DOSH has absolutely refused to furnish us anything," he added.
Gibson said the company will contest the fines before an occupational safety and health review panel and, if necessary, in court.
Company executives blamed the explosion on a leaking natural gas line that ran under the plant, but the Clark County Fire Department said earlier this month that it was sparked by a welder's torch.
Fire Chief Roy Parrish said 8.5 million pounds of ammonium perchlorate, a fuel oxidizer used in the space shuttle and military missiles, was destroyed in the series of blasts at the plant 20 miles from Las Vegas.
The charges include four willful violations such as exposing employees to possible fire or explosion through a lack of manufacturing controls and operating procedures, Kirkbride said.