A union pipefitter suffered severe burns across much of his body when the oil pipestill he was working on vented huge amounts of steam.
In 2009, Steve Pasek was among a group of pipefitters contracted to perform “deblinding” work on pipestills for an international oil producer’s refinery. This process required the pipefitters to remove blinds only after the vessel had been depressurized and steam inside the tower had been turned off. It is a very dangerous process that can have catastrophic consequences if the refinery orders workers to perform this task without confirming zero energy.
Despite contractors and refinery personnel expressing safety concerns to refinery management about the job, refinery personnel ordered that the deblinding work commence and that it should be completed in an unrealistic time frame. Even worse, discovery revealed that the refinery never verified that the area where Steve Pasek was going to be working was depressurized. An investigation showed that the refinery left the steam on while Steve was actually working.
When Mr. Pasek opened the flange to begin his work, approximately 1,000 gallons of pressurized steam and condensate spewed out. Despite wearing protective equipment and using safe line breaking techniques, he sustained burn injuries over 29 percent of his body.
In mediation, the Law Offices of Richard L. Pullano argued that the refinery ignored safety concerns of tradesmen and rushed the job, thereby putting Steve and his co-workers at risk.
“The refinery rushed the job and put the contractors at risk for one reason,” said Rick Pullano. “The faster the deblinding work was completed, the faster the pipestill can get back in service. The refinery put its profits ahead of the safety of those workers on the job.”
Faced with the prospect of a jury trial in which medical professionals, safety experts and eyewitnesses would testify, the refinery chose instead to settle with Mr. Pasek for $1.75 million.
As a condition of the settlement, the name of the refinery cannot be publicized.