Welspun Facing Lawsuit, OSHA Fines Over Death

On Dec. 21, Frederick Bogar yelled “watch out” to a worker at the Welspun Tubular LLC plant in Little Rock.

Bogar and another man, William Durham, were working with large, heavy pipes that were being moved in the Welspun plant. Durham said in a lawsuit filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court that he recalled Bogar hitting the stop button, but the pipes continued to move.

Durham became trapped. Bogar jumped in to release him.

“Tragically while saving Mr. Durham’s life, Mr. Bogar was physically crushed by the 19,000 pound pipes, as the machinery continued to move the pipes, reportedly carrying Mr. Bogar’s crushed body out of the Welspun facility,” according to the lawsuit filed by Bogar’s estate and Durham.

According to the lawsuit, Durham suffered a broken pelvis, broken leg and fractured hip in the accident.

Bogar’s death was one of 87 fatal occupational injuries in Arkansas last year, an increase of 12 deaths over 2009, according to the Arkansas Department of Labor.

David Delie, president of Welspun Tubular LLC, de-clined to comment on the accident because of the pending lawsuit.

Since Welspun, an international pipe manufacturer, opened its plant in Little Rock in 2009, it has been accused by OSHA of several violations totaling about $200,000 in penalties. (Those penalties have been reduced to $52,850. The OSHA penalties involving Bogar’s death, which were $82,100, have not been resolved.)

See also OSHA Steps Up Inspections.

A new plant and inexperienced employees are among the reasons for the accidents and the OSHA fines, Delie told Arkansas Business last week.

He said new employees “aren’t real familiar with the hazards [of the plant], and they just don’t have the experience. It takes time in a new facility to work out all the bugs, not only with the equipment but with the safety program.”

Delie said the company had made progress with its safety program, though. It requires employees to go through safety training before they start, and the company and its 600 employees are focused on safety.

“Our employees are better; our procedures are better,” Delie said. “There’s been a lot of changes and modifications to the equipment to make it safer.”

Still, working at Welspun can be dangerous, Delie said.

“A single pipe weighs up to 10 tons … that’s equal to about four cars,” he said. “One mistake … [and] you’re lucky if you get a second chance.”