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Precast Maker Cited in Worker’s Death

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

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An Illinois concrete company sanctioned in 2012 for not seeking immediate help for a trapped supervisor is now accused of egregious safety violations after a worker was crushed to death in 2013.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued citations for four willful violations, four serious violations and $303,900 in fines against Naperville-based Dukane Precast Inc., which manufactures precast, prestressed structural and architectural products.

Dukane Precast industrial products
Dukane Precast

Founded in 1979, Dukane Precast serves the structural and architectural markets. The company has been inspected more than a dozen times by OSHA.

The latest case involves the death of a longtime temporary worker who was crushed in a concrete mixer at Dukane's plant in Aurora, IL, while working alone in a confined space July 20, 2013.

The 39-year-old Hispanic worker had entered the mixer's discharge mud hopper to try to free a pneumatically powered discharge gate that was stuck open by hardened concrete. The gate had not been deactivated and closed on the worker, whose name was not released.

Severe Violator

OSHA found that the worker "was supervised solely" by Dukane and added the company to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program; the staffing service was not cited.

"It is unacceptable that Dukane Precast would allow a worker to enter a permit-required confined space to perform maintenance without ensuring that the space was isolated from hazards by following OSHA standards," said Kathy Webb, OSHA's area director in North Aurora.

Dukane Precast said in a statement Tuesday (Feb. 5) that OSHA had "issued overreaching allegations" in the case, "and we vehemently disagree with its findings."

"For decades, Dukane has employed full-time safety professionals, established extensive training programs and policies to protect its workers," the statement said. "Dukane will aggressively defend itself against these citations."

Willful Violations

Willful violations are OSHA's highest level of infraction, reserved for violations "committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for, or plain indifference to, employee safety and health." Multiple willful violations in a single case are rare.

OSHA workshop

A 2010 OSHA Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety focused on the disproportionate incidence of deaths and injuries among that population.

OSHA issued four willful violation against Dukane, alleging failure to:

  • Inform employees of the existence, location and danger posed by the concrete mixer and discharge hopper;
  • Ensure that the mixer and hopper were isolated from the hazards of the concrete mixing system and associated materials before the employee entered;
  • Ensure that the discharge gate was deenergized and locked out before entry; and
  • Prepare an entry permit and provide an attendant for employee entry.

Serious Violations

Four serious violations, reflecting life-threatening hazards, allege:

  • Lack of a guardrail on an open-sided platform;
  • Failure to use ingress and egress equipment for maintenance in the discharge hopper;
  • Lack of a non-entry rescue retrieval system for maintenance in the hopper; and
  • Failure to conduct annual inspections of energy control procedures at the plant.

Buried Alive

The new citations follow a 2012 case in which OSHA cited and fined Dukane for not acting quickly to seek help for a supervisor who had fallen into a 25-foot-tall silo full of sand.

William Ortiz, 38, became entrapped in the sand up to his waist Feb. 6, 2012, at the company's Naperville plant. OSHA said Dukane had waited more than an hour before calling 911 to rescue Ortiz, who was engulfed in the sand and "suffered serious crushing injuries."

On July 30, 2012, OSHA issued one willful and three serious safety violations to the company and proposed fines totaling $70,000 in the Ortiz incident. The willful citation alleged failure to summon emergency assistance. The other citations alleged confined-space violations and failure to protect workers from equipment.

Dukane Precast architectural
Dukane Precast

Dukane Precast says it is "a driving influence for innovative building solutions."

Dukane contested that case, and the parties are awaiting a ruling from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Temporary, Hispanic Workers at Risk

In April 2013, OSHA launched a new initiative to protect temporary workers, who may not be sufficiently trained for their positions and who may face language barriers. The program followed a series of reports about temporary workers suffering fatal injuries, many during their first days on the job.

The agency has also been concernd with reducing the toll of workplace injuries and deaths among Hispanic and Latin workers and other groups with limited English proficiency.

Hispanic/Latino contractors accounted for 28 percent of fatal work injuries among contractors in 2011, OSHA said—well above their 16 percent share of the overall fatal work injury total for the year.

Under OSHA's regulations, both employers and staffing agencies have responsibilities for the safety of temporary workers.


Tagged categories: Concrete; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Worker training

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