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OSHA News Release
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Region 5


April 3, 2020

U.S. Department of Labor Cites Three Employers After Worker Injured at Northwestern University

EVANSTON, IL –  The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited three employers – Northwestern University, Hill Mechanical Corp. and National Heat & Power Corp. – for exposing workers to permit-required confined space hazards associated with underground steam vaults. Proposed penalties for the three companies total $235,962.

OSHA received an employer-reported referral from Hill Mechanical Corp. after an employee suffered burns from a release of steam while working in a steam vault at Northwestern’s Evanston Campus.

OSHA determined that Northwestern University contracted Hill Mechanical Corp. to make needed steam repairs and that neither company implemented adequate permit-required confined space safety measures. OSHA cited Northwestern University for failing to provide required information to contractors and coordinate activities, identify and evaluate high-pressure steam as a hazard, isolate steam energy, perform air monitoring, provide required signage, complete entry permits, evaluate their confined space hazard program and ensure the ability to rescue employees from a confined space. The university faces penalties of $105,835 for nine serious violations.

OSHA also cited Hill Mechanical Corp. for failing to obtain information from the host employer and coordinate activities, identify and evaluate hazards of the space, isolate steam energy, perform air monitoring, complete entry permits, provide required confined space training and ensure the ability to rescue employees from a confined space. The company faces penalties of $105,835 for nine serious violations.

National Heat & Power Corp. – the contractor brought in to complete the repairs – faces penalties of $24,292 for four serious violations involving failing to obtain information from the host employer, adequately isolate steam energy, provide required confined space training and complete entry permits.

“Employers on multi-employer job sites must coordinate tasks and train workers on jobsite hazards to prevent injuries,” said OSHA Chicago North Area Director Angeline Loftus. “Workers in confined spaces face increased risk of exposure to serious physical injury from confinement and limited access, making this coordination even more important.”

OSHA provides information on what employers must do to limit worker exposures to confined space hazards.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit https://www.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

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Media Contacts:

Scott Allen, 312-353-4727, allen.scott@dol.gov
Rhonda Burke, 312-353-6976, burke.rhonda@dol.gov                        

Release Number: 20-540-CHI


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