JACKSON COUNTY -- An east Jackson County man killed in a 2014 explosion at Omega Protein, Inc., in Moss Point did not receive adequate warnings about flammable hydrogen and sulfide gases inside a storage tank he was working on when it blew up, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the man's wife.
Jerry Lee Taylor II, 25, of the Big Point community, was welding on the top of a metal storage tank at Omega's fish-processing plant on Elder Ferry Road on July 28, 2014, when the tank exploded.
According to the suit, Taylor died after he was thrown 100 feet and landed on the top of another storage tank. Three others were injured, one seriously.
Taylor's death certificate says he died of massive injuries to the head, neck, trunk and extremities as a result of a blunt force impact.
Katlyn Taylor is seeking punitive and compensatory damages for wrongful death, pain and suffering, negligence and breech of contract and is asking for an award to cover the expenses for burial and internment costs, reasonable first responder expenses incurred by her and her late husband's estimated future earning capacity of $1.4 million.
She is asking for a jury trial.
Taylor was a temporary worker at Omega hired to
cut and weld pipes on storage tanks at the plant. Accu-Fab & Construction, a metal fabricator, was contracted by Omega to manufacture and set up a wastewater storage tank that required modifications to some existing pipes.
The staffing agency Global Employment Services provided Accu-Fab with the employees, including Taylor.
Katlyn Taylor alleges Omega failed to perform safety inspections or train workers about the hazards of potentially flammable and toxic wastewater, a byproduct of the manufacturing process, in the storage tanks Taylor and others were working on the day of the explosion.
The wastewater can generate hydrogen sulfide and methane gases, which can be highly explosive and toxic.
In addition, the suit says, an Omega engineer told the Accu-Fab foreman the wastewater was not flammable and that it would cost Omega thousands of dollars to drain the matter.
Ben Landry, director of public affairs for Omega, said they did not wish to comment on the suit.
After the explosion, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated and fined Omega and three other companies more than $187,000.
OSHA said two temporary workers, which included Taylor, who were hired and had no idea and no training to know that the storage tank beneath them contained explosive methane and hydrogen sulfide gases. They also found that four companies violated safety regulations that could have prevented the explosion. Omega and Accu-Fab were two of the companies cited.
OSHA issued 13 citations to Omega Protein, a producer of omega-3 fish and specialty fish meal products, for willful, repeated and serious safety violations. OSHA issued the willful citation for exposing employees to fire and explosive hazards due to Omega's management's failure to tell Accu-Fab that the storage tank contained wastewater that could generate highly explosive and toxic hydrogen sulfide.
Their repeated violations included not having standard railings on open-sided floors and platforms and failing to label electrical boxes properly.
Omega had been cited previously for the same violations.
OSHA cited Accu-Fab for one willful, four serious and two other non-serious violations. The willful violation was issued for failure to train workers on chemical hazards in the work area. Global Employment Services was cited for the same violation. In addition, both companies were cited for a serious violation for failure to instruct employees about avoiding unsafe work conditions.
OSHA also cited Accu-Fab for failure to ensure employees working on top of storage tank at heights of up to 29 feet were wearing fall protection and for not recording the fatality or two other recorded injuries.