A Redwood City construction company was handed down a judgement and fine in excess of $75,000 by the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office this week, stemming from a civil complaint for violation of several workplace safety and environmental laws - one of which caused a workplace explosion.
Pellarin Construction Group, Inc., a commercial home design, construction, and remodel business located at 1520 Main Street, is accused of failing to make necessary facility improvements to protect the safety of workers - both its own employees as well as city maintenance staff that routinely collects the company's garbage.
A civil complaint, filed on July 23, 2012, alleged that, on or about Dec. 26, 2011, two Pellarin employees and their supervisor were instructed to conduct property improvements at the company's Redwood City facility, which included preparing a building for painting.
On Dec. 27, 2011, while working on this assignment, the supervisor located five plastic containers that were being kept outside the building. Each of the five containers held one or more hazardous materials, such as various types of acid including hydrochloric acid, drain cleaner that contains sulfuric acid, ammonia, marin resin, and many more.
The containers had been kept on the property for prolonged periods of time. For example, amounts of Poly Carboy/Lithiochrome that was last used at a job site approximately 10 years prior was still sitting around the building in a container.
In complete violation of environmental laws, the Pellarin supervisor disposed of the containers and the debris in the company's universal garbage dumpster.
On Jan. 3, 2012, two Recology employees drove their rear-loading garbage truck into the company's parking lot for a routine garbage pickup. They rolled the garbage dumpster into position at the rear of their garbage truck and transferred the dumpster's contents.
In so doing, the two Recology employees unknowingly moved the five containers of hazardous waste from the dumpster to their garbage truck. Just as the garbage truck’s actuator blade began moving the items to the rear of the truck, an explosion occurred.
Because they turned from the noise, the two Recology employees were fortunately not struck by the liquid substance that sprayed from the truck. However, they both inhaled smoke emanating from the liquid substance, which has caused them breathing difficulties, eye pain, and prolonged and sustained coughing to the point that one of the employees vomited.
Also, a Recology supervisor who arrived on the scene approximately 10 to 15 minutes later unknowingly walked through a visible gas cloud that was still present near the rear of the truck.
The Recology supervisor called 9-1-1. Emergency personnel, including police, fire fighters, and hazardous material specialists, responded to the scene. All three Recology employees were transported to a hospital for treatment.
The civil complaint alleged that the defendant violated environmental protection and workplace safety laws and regulations, including the disposal of hazardous or extremely hazardous waste at an unauthorized point, not maintaining a safe work environment, and not properly training employees.
In response to the complaint, the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office this week handed down a judgement, which requires that Pellarin, moving forward, operate in full compliance with applicable environmental protection and workplace safety laws and regulations, and pay a fine of $77,878.20 in civil penalties and reimbursement of enforcement and emergency response costs.
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