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Region 8 News Release: 10-1778-DEN (11-2)
Jan. 4, 2011
Contact: Rich Kulczewski
Phone: 303-844-1302
E-mail: kulczewski.richard@dol.gov

US Department of Labor's OSHA cites Speedy Rooter Inc. of
South Sioux City, Neb., following double fatality in sewer manhole

BISMARCK, N.D. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued Speedy Rooter Inc. in South Sioux City, Neb., citations for one willful and five serious violations after two workers who entered a municipal sewer manhole were overcome by sewer gas and died.

OSHA's area office in Bismarck began the investigation in July after a worker entered the manhole in an attempt to rescue another worker who had been overcome by sewer gas, and both workers died.

"This employer blatantly disregarded industry-recognized hazards and safe work practices by exposing these workers to dangerous sewer gases that ended their lives," said Tom Deutscher, OSHA's area director in Bismarck. "There is no acceptable reason for any employer to require employees to enter a confined space without first ensuring that they can do so safely and without compromising their lives."

The willful violation is for failing to effectively develop and implement a confined space permit program to ensure workers were protected from confined space hazards. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The five serious violations involve failing to provide effective means for atmospheric testing, space ventilation, summoning rescue and emergency services, issuing entry permits and conducting employee training. A serious violation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The penalty proposed for the six citations is $94,500. Speedy Rooter Inc., a commercial and residential plumbing service, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to contest these findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Prior to contesting, the employer can request an informal conference with OSHA's area director.

To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

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 assure 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.

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U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audiotape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/compliance.


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