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OSHA News Release – Region 6
U.S. Department of Labor
Region 6 News Release: OSHA-04-842-DAL
Mon., May 10, 2004
Contact: Diana Petterson or Elizabeth Todd
Phone: (214) 767-4776, ext. 222 or 221
CORPUS CHRISTI -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Jimerson Underground Inc. and L&B Vactor Services LLC for alleged violations of safety standards following the November deaths of two L&B Vactor Services workers who suffocated when they entered an oxygen-deficient sanitary sewer in Edinburg to clean it out.
"These tragic deaths should have been prevented," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "To ensure that workplace fatalities continue to decline, we must make sure that employers protect employees from hazards. The significant total penalties of $100,600 send a strong signal that worker health and safety is of the utmost importance to this Administration."
Jimerson Underground Inc. of Sugarland, Texas, a sanitary sewer installation and maintenance company and general contractor, was issued one willful and eight serious citations. Proposed penalties total $78,200.
Several of the alleged violations involve "permit-required confined spaces" or "permit spaces." A workspace is "confined" when its configuration hinders the activities of employees who must enter, exit and work in it. For work in a confined space that has such serious hazards as moving machinery parts or lack of breathable air, safety standards require a written "permit" that names the hazards and details how to deal with them.
The willful citation issued to Jamerson Underground was for failing to have a written permit space entry program; failing to properly isolate, flush or eliminate the toxic atmosphere while ensuring proper ventilation through pre-entry testing; and failing to provide rescue equipment. The alleged serious violations included failure to inform the subcontractor of the presence of permit spaces for which entry could only be made through compliance with a permit space entry program; failure to prepare an entry space; failure to provide permit space training to all employees; and failure to inform employees of all the hazards associated with entry into a permit space.
L&B Vactor Services of Edinburg, Texas, a sewer maintenance company and subcontractor, was cited for eight serious violations with penalties totaling $22,400. The alleged serious violations include failing to post danger signs warning against the confined space hazards, failing to provide personal protective equipment, ventilation, atmospheric testing and continuous monitoring and failing to train employees on permit space entry.
Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health. Work-related fatalities declined 6.6 percent in 2002, the most recent year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has published data. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
U.S. Labor Department releases are accessible on the Internet at <http://www.dol.gov>. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7765 or TTY (202) 693-7755
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