Schools other agencies ignoring boiler inspection laws

Monday, January 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Hundreds of schools, hospitals and state buildings _ including the Governor's Mansion _ routinely violate boiler inspection laws that were toughened after an explosion at a local elementary school, according to a published report.

On Jan. 19, 1982, a boiler exploded at Star Elementary school, killing six students and a teacher. More than 30 students and adults also were injured in the blast.

State labor department officials say school water heater inspections required under the 1982 law are up-to-date, but boiler inspections remain a problem, the Sunday Oklahoman reported in a copyright story.

Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau Wynn said there are two problems with boiler inspections: The agency needs more boiler inspectors and insurance companies need to fulfill their inspection commitments.

Most insurance companies annually request responsibility for conducting the inspections on boilers and other pressure vessels they insure in public and privately owned buildings.

But state records show more than 1,100 such inspections are overdue _ including more than six dozen schools across Oklahoma.

Records also showed 385 past-due inspections at public and privately owned buildings that fall under the jurisdiction of state inspectors.

The state has five full-time boiler inspectors and one full-time hot water heater inspector. Five more inspectors split their time between hot water heaters and amusement rides.

``We won't be any better off from the Star incident if the Legislature doesn't address the needs,'' Reneau Wynn said.

She said Gov. Frank Keating and the Legislature have been aware of the problem for at least a year but have taken no action. She has asked for money to hire more inspectors because of the backlog.

Spokesman Dan Mahoney said the governor included more money for state inspectors in his budget request last year and also supported a $31,000 supplemental appropriation the Labor Department requested.

Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Agency is the world's largest insurer of boilers and insures the majority of boilers and other pressure vessels in Oklahoma.

The company has struggled to keep pace with inspections but doesn't want to get out of the inspection business, company spokesman Dennis Milewski said.

``It's our goal, our philosophy, to schedule inspections of boilers and pressure vessels that are owned by the clients and insured,'' he said. ``We take responsibility to schedule those inspections, but if for some reason that doesn't happen, we want them to notify us or the state that it hasn't been done.''