October 3, 2007 The Pump Handle 0Comment

Five employees of RPI Coatings were killed on Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Inc’s(NYSE: XEL) Cabin Creek Station hydroelectric plant, located about 30 miles from Denver, CO.  The deceased workers were part of a contract maintenance crew which were applying a specialized epoxy coating onto the inside of a 3,000 feet-long (and 4-feet wide) water pipe.  A fire erupted, with four RPI contractors able to escape it.  

 The Denver Post is reporting that the five deceased workers had:

“last communicated by radio about 30 minutes after the fire broke out, and reported no injuries, but they were dead by the time rescuers reached them more than five hours later.”

An official with RPI said his firm had about 200 employees nationwide.

“We’ve done a lot of projects like this one and never had trouble before. These men were very experienced people…These men all were wearing breathing apparatus.  We don’t know what created the fire.  Usually all of the equipment we use is explosion-proof that shouldn’t cause sparks.  The epoxy coating being applied does not present a lot of danger under normal circumstances.”

Curiously, in the very next sentence of the Denver Post story it says:

“The victims in Tuesday’s chemical fire were wearing Tyvek suits and masks commonly used by painters but did not have scuba-type air supplies.”

[Hmmm…were they wearing air-supplied breathing devices or painters’ masks?]

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has already announced that it has deployed a team of investigators to the site.  OSHA and the Colorado Bureau of Public Safety are expected to conduct their own investigations.

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