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MT Contractor Cited in Worker's Death

Friday, March 15, 2013

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A Montana paving contractor is facing 16 federal health and safety violations, including one willful violation, in the death of a worker who slipped from the top of a tank and struck his head on the concrete pad below.

William "Bill" Irby Jr., 54, of Corvallis was not wearing fall protection while checking some measurements atop a tank that lacked a guardrail Sept. 12  when he slipped and fell 15 feet, hitting his head at M.R. Asphalt Inc., near Hamilton, authorities said.

The circumstances surrounding Irby's death, and other conditions discovered on the ensuing inspection, resulted in the citations, which carry $54,000 in fines, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday (March 13).

William (Bill) Irby Jr.

William "Bill" Irby Jr., 54, wore no fall protection while working on a tank without a guardrail.

A request to the company Thursday (March 14) for comment was not immediately returned.

Willful, Serious Violations

The willful violation involves failure to provide a guardrail or fall protection on the working surface. Willful violations are OSHA's highest level of infraction, reserved for violations "committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements." One count may carry a fine up to $70,000; here, the violation carried a $28,000 penalty.

In this case, the tank top is considered an open-sided floor or platform and falls under OSHA's floor openings standard.

"By ignoring fall protection requirements, this employer showed plain indifference and intentional disregard to worker safety," said Jeff Funke, director of OSHA's Billings Area Office. "Employers who knowingly expose workers to life-threatening hazards will be held fully accountable."

No Bathroom, No Soap, No Monitoring

Thirteen serious violations include a variety of hazards, from failing to evaluate hydrogen sulfide exposure to forcing employees to drive to a gas-station bathroom that was more than a mile away.

The allegations include failure to:

  • Provide workers with information and training on hazardous chemicals;
  • Provide adequate toilet and hand-washing facilities; and
  • Protect workers from moving parts, such as horizontal shafts, drive systems, rotating chains and sprocket assemblies.
Emergency - MySafetyNews
ICW Group

OSHA requires employers to report a fatality within eight hours. In this case, the agency says, M.R. Asphalt did not do so. The company received 16 citations.

Other violations allege multiple instances of electrical hazards and leaving defective ladders in service.

Serious violations reflect "substantial probability" of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA also cited the company for failure to report the death within eight hours as required and for inadequate record-keeping. OSHA said M.R. Asphalt did not note the death on its OSHA records for calendar year 2012.

OSHA records show no other cases involving M.R. Asphalt Inc., which has 15 days to contest the violations.

'Master of Laughter'

An obituary in the Ravalli Republic described Irby as "an avid Harley rider, animal lover and a master of laughter." He and his wife of 24 years moved to Montana in 2008.

The newspaper said Irby had visited Montana as a child and "knew then this was where he belonged."


Tagged categories: Accidents; Enforcement; Fall protection; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Tanks and vessels

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