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Contractor Liable for Trapped Worker

Thursday, April 3, 2014

More items for Health & Safety

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Confined-space hazards and other serious safety lapses caused a Florida worker to become trapped for hours in a tank of hot tar last September, federal authorities say.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Atlantic Coast Asphalt of Jacksonville for the incident that left pipecutter Earl Robinson knee-deep in hot liquid asphalt while crews worked eight hours to rescue him.

Asphalt Tank
Screen grab /  WTEV-CBS

Earl Robinson was trapped for eight hours in a large tank of hot asphalt.

Authorities said Robinson had been trying to cut a section of piping inside a large tank at the company's plant when he became stuck in the tar. Crews finally freed Robinson by cutting a large hole in the tank. He suffered severe burns to his feet and legs, authorities said.

Additional details of the accident and rescue were unavailable.

Serious Violations

On March 25, OSHA announced that it had cited Atlantic Coast Asphalt with 10 serious safety and health violations, carrying proposed penalties of $63,360. Serious OSHA violations reflect "substantial probability" of death or serious injury from a hazard that an employer knew, or should have known, about.

"This incident could have been prevented if the employer followed OSHA's standards for lockout/tagout and permit-required confined-space procedures," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville.

"When employers take shortcuts related to safety and health, they are gambling with employees' lives."

Asphalt Services - Hubbard
Hubbard Construction Co.

Hubbard Construction is Florida's largest heavy civil construction concern and the parent company of Atlantic Coast Asphalt and other asphalt plants.

Atlantic Coast Asphalt manufactures and distributes hot-mix asphalt, is a subsidiary of Hubbard Construction Co., based in Winter Park, FL. Hubbard did not respond Wednesday (April 2) to a request for comment.

Citation Details

The citations allege that the company:

The company has 15 business days to pay the fine or contest the findings.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Asphalt; Chemical Plants; Construction; Health and safety

Comment from Billy Russell, (4/3/2014, 10:20 PM)

Prayers for the man trapped, Rip them a new one for the company’s ignorance.

Comment from Mike McCloud, (4/7/2014, 6:15 AM)

Nobody was thinking on this one.

Comment from Chuck Pease, (4/7/2014, 9:07 PM)

When will this type of incident cease to occur? I'll tell you when. When employers start being charged criminally for this type of crap. 63 K is a pittance compared to the pain and suffering this man and family will endure.Truth be known after an appeal the company will work with OSHA and the fines will be reduced. Cost of doing business???? My name is Chuck Pease and I endorse this statement.

Comment from Victoria Terronez, (4/7/2014, 9:39 PM)

Thank You Chuck, I endorse you as well. This is exactly true. I lost my Son August 1st, 2013 from the fall from the water tower he was working on. I know exactly how Safety oriented my Son was. Of course there was so much that was hidden at first till because certain organizations including the one he worked for, the company that subcontracted them out and even city and government officials all have played their part in trying to hide so much. Only want to give a slap on the wrist like this to the company he worked for. I am in Iowa and my Son's name is Winfred J. Davis, (29 yrs old). God be with this Man & all of his Loved Ones. * If they could only endure OUR PAIN!!!!!

Comment from Car F., (4/9/2014, 11:34 AM)

There is no deterrence for this type of criminal negligence. Fines imposed by regulatory agencies are considered the “ cost of doing business’ and in all likelihood are tax deductible as a business expense. The “three strikes you are out” mantra is reserved for the ill-educated, poor, petty criminal who commits crimes in a crude and reckless way. Will there be ever a reality show devoted to denouncing and exposing negligent employers responsible for killing and injuring workers? If lions had written their own history, they would be portrait as devoted and committed vegetarians: criminal and irresponsible employers are never portrayed as such because they write their own version of history in the mainstream media.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (4/10/2014, 10:49 AM)

Car and Chuck...while I agree that these employers need to be held accountable (and some workers need to grow a brain whilst others a spine and the whistleblower legislations should be toughened a bit too), I think we all know that the moment a bill hit the docket in any legislature that there would be an immediate uproar. The issues raised would be how much it would cost (regulator and employer), how it would kill competition, stifle job creation and the economy, etc., etc., etc. Personally, I'd love to see more criminal prosecution of employers who endanger their workers (intentionally or through willful disregard), the ability to permanently shut down the guys who just don't (or won't) "get it" and a way to block them from just "flipping" companies (i.e. shut one down and immediately starting another in the same field)....but something tells me the Styx would be frozen long before that time ever arrives.

Comment from Mike McCloud, (4/11/2014, 6:53 AM)

Why would anybody go into a tank with hot asphalt?

Comment from Jerry Trevino, (4/11/2014, 3:14 PM)

Ms. Terronez, sorry about your Son, and I pray for Mr. Robinson’s Recovery. In these type of articles, we never get to know all the facts. Some automatically assume the the Company's Greed, or the Company's lack of care for employee safety is the cause of these type of accidents. In some cases that may be true, however, maybe not in all cases. I once had an employee drill a hole through his half mask respirator so that he could smoke while spray painting (he thought that was cure and funny). I also had an employee already sensitized by polyurethane in his previous job(s), work for us who for the third time purposely exposed himself to paint so that he could for the 3rd time claim or attempt to claim workers comp. He was much more familiar with effects and side effects of exposure to isocyanates than did the physician, poison control, and the manufacturer of the product. Even though he demonstrated he understood the respirator training, how to properly use and take care of PPE, and understood and comprehended product data sheets and MSDS sheets etc. In this article we do not know who asked the employee to enter and work in a confined space area without all the proper risk analysis, ppe, atmospheric monitoring, ventilation, etc, etc. If the employee jumped in on his own to perform the task even if he was properly trained, even then, the Employer is still accountable regardless. Safety inspections can always find areas of improvement in the Company's Safety Program. Most employers deeply care for the health and safety of their employees. They are dependent on employees to run a successful business, just as employees need a place to work. Any trained inspector can find serious safety violations in any and every workplace. Even in osha offices. I have personally seen these, however, no one is accountable in those offices, nor in gov facilities, military bases, ships, embassies, state and federal buildings, etc. Accidents are very unfortunate and they do happen and we all have to be vigil about the risks in the workplace. It takes both employers and employees for this country to work. We can not all work for the government.

Comment from Karen Fischer, (4/14/2014, 10:22 AM)

Mike, that is my question exactly... why would anyone enter a tank of hot asphalt?

Comment from Car F., (4/14/2014, 11:35 AM)

Mr. Trevino’s veiled defense of an irresponsible employer who has to its credit 10 previous serious safety violations, illustrates the attitude that kills workers in this country "we are all responsible for safety" This is the typical response to evade taking ownership of the workplace. The EMPLOYER CONTROL and OWN the workplace. Where was the supervisor for that job site, why was the worker allowed to go in the tank unsupervised? The employer allowed a worker to enter a dangerous space by not having a supervisor right there or is Mr. Trevino suggesting that the worker forced his way into the tank?. True, we do not need more government agencies. We need government agencies with teeth and power to jail irresponsible employers.

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