Sept. 22, 2014
Worker reports respiratory inflammation after welding in rail car
OSHA proposes fines of $133,900 for Watco Investments LLC for safety violations
OMAHA, Neb. – A worker at Watco Investments LLC reported suffering from respiratory inflammation after performing welding work inside a rail car in Omaha. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the company, operating as Watco Companies Inc., for three repeat and three serious safety violations, many involving OSHA's confined space safety regulations. OSHA has proposed fines of $133,900 for the company, which specializes in rail car repairs.
"Confined spaces can put workers at risk for serious injury and illness. These spaces often have poor air quality and other serious hazards," said Bonita Winingham, OSHA's area director in Omaha. "Employers, such as Watco Companies, have a responsibility to train workers in the unique dangers of confined space entry and to ensure spaces are safe for the work tasks performed."
OSHA initiated the March 27, 2014, inspection after receiving a report of the illness from the Nebraska Department of Labor Workers' Compensation Division. OSHA has a Local Emphasis Program on Workers' Compensation* to reduce injuries and illnesses in private industry within Nebraska.
The inspection found that Watco Companies allowed employees to enter rail cars to perform repair tasks, including welding, without implementing procedures required under OSHA's permit-required confined space regulations. A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy, such as an enclosed rail car.
OSHA found three repeat violations for failure to implement training, procedures and practices for safe entry into these spaces, including the company's failure to evaluate for hazards, and to provide workers with communication devices or implement measures to prevent unauthorized entry.
OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer was previously cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Watco Companies was previously cited for these violations in 2013 in Texas.
Serious violations were cited for failure to provide administrative and engineering controls to reduce damaging noise exposure, electrical hazards and lack of atmospheric controls in confined spaces. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exits.
To view current citations, visit http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/WatcoInvestmentsLLC_965350_0917_14.pdf*.
Watco Companies, a transportation company based in Pittsburg, Kansas, provides mechanical, transportation, terminal and port service solutions for customers throughout North America and Australia. Watco Companies employs about 4,500 workers nationwide and 30 in Omaha.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Omaha Area Office at 402-553-0171.
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 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 http://www.osha.gov.
# # #
Release Number: 14-1724-KAN
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).
* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.