Occupational Safety & Health Administration

OSHA Cites Utility Contractor Following Confined-Space Fatality

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Granbury Contracting and Utilities Inc. for two willful and two serious safety and health violations following the death of a worker at the company's Gordon, Texas, facility.

OSHA's Fort Worth Area Office initiated an inspection on June 28 in response to a report that employees working on a new sewer line were exposed to inhalation of a hazardous chemical. One employee who entered a manhole to remove a plug in order to flush out accumulated debris became overwhelmed by toxic fumes and died. Another employee was hospitalized after attempting to rescue his co-worker.

The willful violations are for failing to test for atmospheric conditions and provide adequate ventilation and emergency retrieval equipment prior to entry into a manhole. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The serious violations are failing to provide or require the use of respirators as well as conduct an assessment to determine the potential for a hazardous atmosphere where oxygen deficiency, methane and/or hydrogen sulfide were present or likely to be present. A serious violation occurs 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 company failed to ensure that proper confined space entry procedures were followed," said Jack Rector, OSHA's area director in Fort Worth. "If it had followed OSHA's safety standards, it is possible that this tragic incident could have been prevented."

The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Granbury-Contracting-Utilities-inc-314279431-1220-12.pdf*.

Proposed penalties total $118,580. Granbury Contracting and Utilities, which employs about 30 workers at its Gordon location, has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Fort Worth area director or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and 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 Fort Worth office at 817-581-7303.

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.

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