• 9 Investigates safety record of Blue Rhino propane facility


    TAVARES, Fla. - Following an explosion at the Blue Rhino propane facility in Tavares Monday night, Channel 9 investigative reporter Christopher Heath has been digging into the facility's safety record.

    The plant, which opened in 2004, has been inspected every year by the state. WFTV obtained the most recent inspection, which was conducted 11 days ago, and the state said there were no violations at the plant.

    Both federal and state investigators told Channel 9 not only was the site inspected frequently, it was actually used by the state for training exercises.

    In fact, the Bureau of Gas Inspection had a seminar scheduled at the facility for late September.

    Heath did find a 2011 inspection by OSHA conducted at the facility. In that inspection, the agency fined Blue Rhino $3,000 for what it called a "serious" violation.

    The report indicated that a machine used to blow compressed air into the tanks was set at twice the recommended pressure. That problem was corrected on site.

    The Lake County facility is classified by the state as a 601 facility, meaning it is a dealer, licensed by the state to sell and fill cylinders.

    The facility has a capacity to fill 6,000 cylinders a shift. Employees were filling cylinders on Monday night when the explosion happened.

    Florida requires all employees at facilities like Blue Rhino to be trained, but not every employee must have a certification card from the state.

    The facility was only required to have one certified employee for every 10 employees at work.

    On Monday night there would have been at least 20 employees working, which means there should have been at least two employees with cards from the state.

    Monday's explosion isn't the first time there has been a major explosion at a Blue Rhino facility.

    In 1999, two workers were injured when a spark set off a series of blasts at a Blue Rhino facility in California.

    Meanwhile, Heath is still awaiting the records from the state of Florida on the Tavares facility for its previous inspections.

    Since 2004, the facility should have been inspected at least seven times.

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    9 Investigates safety record of Blue Rhino propane facility