Owner Admits He Lied To Investigators, Flouted Repair Permit Requirements After Tanker Exploded, Severely Injuring Employee

Tanker in this image is not related to the story. Image for illustrative purposes only (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Andrew Jose Contributor
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An Idaho tanker testing and repair company owner pleaded guilty to lying to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and illegally repairing a cargo tanker, violating the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday.

An employee of the company, KCCS Inc., was severely injured in Aug. 2018 while welding after the welder flame broke through the tanker’s skin, the plea agreement says, according to a Justice Department press release. The tanker at that time had residual flammable material within, which caused the explosion after the flame broke in. (RELATED: More Deaths, Less Inspections: Federal Government Cuts Back On Workplace Inspections, Report Says)

Following the incident, OSHA began an investigation into the incident. When an OSHA investigator interviewed the company’s owner, 66-year-old Loren Kim Jacobson, to determine if Jacobson violated OSHA standards, Jacobson reportedly made a “materially false” statement, according to the DOJ.

Jacobson allegedly lied to the investigator that the injured employee was only an “observer,” not a worker and that KCCS had no employees. He said so to avoid legal repercussions, and penalties for his alleged violations of multiple Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act safety standards during the repair of the tanker that ended with the blast, the DOJ stated, because OSHA requirements only apply to “employers.”

Jacobson also admitted that he never had the necessary certification when he conducted repairs on cargo tankers, according to the DOJ. the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act mandates that every repair person working on the skin of a cargo tanker need to have an “R-stamp,” which they can get only after passing through “extensive training requirements,” the DOJ stated.

This restriction is in place because cargo tankers carry flammable materials often, the DOJ stated. Jacobson admitted that he would regularly repair tankers without getting the “R-stamp” needed for repairs of that nature. He would also ask employees to go into cargo tankers to weld patches from within to prevent repairs from being seen on the outside, according to the DOJ.

Jacobson will be sentenced on Aug. 25. He faces a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment in total for all his counts, according to the DOJ.

“Today’s guilty plea is a sober reminder that endangering the health and safety of commercial industry workers and the public by violating federal hazardous materials transportation requirements will not be tolerated,” Special Agent in Charge Cissy Tubbs of the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General – Western Region Office of Investigations said. “We offer our sincerest condolences to the victim of the August 2018 explosion and remain steadfast in our commitment to working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to hold accountable those who flaunt federal requirements to place financial gain above public safety.”