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OSHA Cites Air Force Base Over B-52 Fire

November 29, 1989

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) _ The government has cited the Air Force for unsafe work conditions surrounding a fatal B-52 fire, alleging workers weren’t given proper tools and cigarette butts were found near where the plane was being fueled.

One worker was killed and 11 were injured in the July blaze at Kelly Air Force Base.

The notice Tuesday from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration includes 16 ″willful″ violations and two ″serious″ ones. No fines were imposed because the Air Force is a federal agency.

OSHA did not pinpoint the the fire’s cause but found several hazards were present. Among the violations cited were cigarette butts found within a 50- foot safety zone. However, OSHA did not allege that workers were smoking.

OSHA also said an ″integral tank tool kit″ was not available for testing one of the plane’s fuel tanks. L. Nicholas, the agency’s area director, refused to elaborate today on how the lack of proper tools related to the accident.

The Air Force has until Dec. 11 to correct some violations but must correct others as soon as Monday.

Maj. Gen. Richard Smith, commander of the Air Logistics Center, said in a statement today that the OSHA citations parallel the Air Force’s own findings and that ″corrective actions are already in progress.″

The Air Force blamed the accident on an improperly constructed, unapproved fuel tank vent plug mistakenly left on a fuel tank after the tank was tested for leaks. That caused the tank to burst when filled, according to the military.

OSHA also charged that the fire guard had left the refueling area and was not present to detect leaking fuel and give a warning, and that supervisors didn’t brief the refueling crew, discuss escape routes or designate one person to direct refueling.

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