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Company Blamed in Trainee’s Death

Friday, December 6, 2013

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Cited twice in five years for hazards, including several that led to an amputation, a Texas industrial plating company is now being held responsible for the death of a 22-year-old worker who was learning how to operate a blast cabinet.

Christopher Cantu was killed May 28—his third day on the job at Coastal Plating Co.'s facility in Corpus Christi. Authorities said a crane had been moving a 2,600-pound cylinder full of abrasive blasting material when it fell on top of Cantu, KRISTV.com reported.

Ten other workers in the area escaped injury.

Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 16 safety citations against the company—not only related to Cantu's death, but also for a lengthy list of other hazards, from lead and chromium exposure to struck-by dangers.

ChristopherCantu
Family via KRISTV.com

Christopher Cantu, 22, was killed in his third day on the job. His family says he had not been trained for the work he was doing when he died.

The proposed fines total $49,700.

About the Company

Coastal Plating declined to comment Thursday (Dec. 4), saying the matter was "still in litigation."

Cantu's family is suing the company, alleging that Cantu was not trained to do the assignment he was doing when he died, news reports said.

Founded in 1948, the industrial plating company advertises the "fastest service available" and prices that are "quite probably the lowest in the business."

Exposures and Hazards

According to OSHA, Cantu was "learning how to operate a blast cabinet" when he "was struck by a gas compressor power cylinder when it exited a cabinet."

All but one of the violations alleged in the case are classified as serious, meaning they carry substantial probability of death or serious injury.

The serious citations allege failure to:

  • Protect workers from being struck by unsecured equipment;
  • Conduct annual crane inspections;
  • Inspect hooks used on overhead cranes;
  • Provide, or enforce the use of, personal protective equipment (PPE) among employees working with toxic hexavalent chromium;
  • Provide respirators for workers exposed to chromium at more than two and a half times the Permissible Exposure Limit;
  • Provide changing rooms, emergency eyewash stations, showers, soap and towels;
  • Monitor all workers exposed to lead fume dust and chromium;
  • Notify workers with elevated blood lead levels of those results; and
  • Guard floor openings.
Coastal Plating
Coastal Plating Co.

According to OSHA, Coastal Plating workers faced a variety of hazards, including lack of PPE and excessive lead and hexavalent chromium exposure.

The plant is also accused of leaving 18 unsealed 55-gallon barrels and 100-pound buckets of chromium-containing waste and debris around the facility.

The other-than-serious citation accuses the company of not training workers who handled chromic acid flakes, chromium plating solution, sulfuric acid, and other hazardous and corrosive chemicals.

Violations, Amputation

This was Coastal Plating's third OSHA case in five years.

In 2007, a worker in the Cylinder Plating Shop was seriously injured in a struck-by accident involving an overhead hoist. He suffered multiple broken bones and the amputation of his left foot, reports said. In that case, OSHA issued four serious citations and $5,000 in fines related to sling, personal protection, and other hazards.

The case was eventually settled with two serious and one other-than-serious violation and a fine of $2,625.

In 2010, the company received a repeat citation for lack of foot protection, a serious citation for lack of respiratory protection, and three other-than-serious citations and fined $3,300. One of the lesser violations was later dropped and the fine reduced to $2,300.

"It is the employer's responsibility to find and fix workplace safety violations and to ensure the safety of its workers," OSHA area director Michael Rivera said in announcing the new fines.

"Coastal Plating Co. failed to do so, and that cost a worker his life."

   

Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Cranes; Enforcement; Fatalities; Health and safety; Hexavalent chromium; Lead; OSHA; Respiratory Protection Standard

Comment from Mark Waaraniemi, (12/6/2013, 10:15 AM)

The Lone Star state is not a 'Star' when it comes to worker safety, or for any other worker's rights, for that matter.


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