Region 6 News Release: USDL-OSHA-98-91-11-2
Monday, November 2, 1998
Contact: Diana Petterson or Beverly Sepulveda, (214) 767-4776, ext. 222 or 221
OSHA PROPOSES $34,500 IN PENALTIES AGAINST ARLINGTON SEWER CONTRACTOR
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Conn & Sons Construction Co. Inc. of Arlington for safety violations in the deaths of two employees and proposed $34,500 in penalties for those violations.
The citations follow an OSHA investigation of the deaths of two workers Aug. 19 when they were overcome by inhalation of sewer gases after they entered a sewer system manhole. The construction crew had been working to install a new sewer line which was to tie into an existing system. A hole was cut in the side of a manhole for the connection, but additional material needed to be removed. A worker was sent into the manhole to remove the material.
"The first crew member who entered the manhole was immediately overcome by the toxic atmosphere," said R. Dean Wingo, OSHA area director for the Forth Worth office. "A second employee, the foreman, went in to rescue the worker and also collapsed. They had no instruments to test the atmosphere before going into the sewer and there was no way for crew members outside the manhole to rescue them."
Wingo explained that entries of this nature often end in multiple tragedies when fellow workers attempt rescues and become victims. "Employers are required to have a confined entry procedure which includes proper testing equipment, a means to ventilate the space if necessary, protective equipment for workers, at least one attendant to monitor the operation and a way to rescue workers from outside the space," Wingo said. "Equally important, employees must be trained to recognize the hazards of confined spaces and to take appropriate precautions."
OSHA's construction standards require this training and that employers comply with the standards to prevent exposing employees to toxic substances. OSHA cited Conn & Sons for willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act by:
failing to develop and implement a confined space entry procedure;
failing to train employees on the hazards of confined spaces, entry procedures and rescue procedures;
failing to provide testing equipment to monitor the atmosphere inside the manhole;
failing to provide personal protective and rescue equipment;
exposing employees to lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide.
The first two violations were determined to be willful and the others were classified as serious. A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA issues willful citations when it believes that the employer knew what specific safeguards were required to protect workers yet apparently elected not to provide them.
A serious violations is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
Wingo urged area employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to call the nearest OSHA office. OSHA's toll-free hotline may be used to report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers. The number is 1-800-321-6742.
Conn & Sons Construction has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to either elect to comply with them or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.