Battelle fined for safety violations

Battelle Energy Alliance was fined $168,750 for five violations of the U.S. Department of Energy’s worker safety and health regulations stemming from a Feb. 11, 2013, incident involving an injured researcher.

The unidentified Idaho National Laboratory researcher received multiple second- and third-degree burns to about 10 percent of his body in the incident at a lab facility, according to an Independent Activity Report on the Department of Energy’s Office of Health, Safety and Security’s website in 2013.

Those injuries occurred when two INL researchers were conducting a test on a synthetic gas and hydrogen production process at the INL Engineering Demonstration Facility. During the test, hot steam and molten salt were forced out of the top of the container and into the experiment enclosure. That mixture was 1,652 degrees Fahrenheit.

One of the researchers was burned. He was transported to a local hospital for treatment and released the same day.

The two researchers no longer are employed at INL, officials said in July 2013.

Department of Energy Office of Enforcement Director Steven C. Simonson issued Battelle a preliminary notice of violation Friday.

“DOE considers the serious injuries sustained by the researcher and associated violations to be of high safety significance,” Simonson wrote. “DOE’s evaluation of the circumstances concluded that BEA did not apply the rigor and formality to work planning, control, execution and oversight at a level commensurate with the hazards and risks associated with the scope of work for the … test.”

Battelle initially was assessed a civil penalty of $337,500, however, that amount was halved as a result of Battelle’s corrective action plan to address issues brought forward in the investigation report.

“Our first and most important priority is always the safety of our people and preventing incidents such as this one from happening in the future. One of our co-workers — a colleague — was injured in this event and that is never acceptable,” INL Lab Director John Grossenbacher said in an emailed statement Friday.