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Major Fine, Denials in Railcar Death

Monday, December 15, 2014

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A cleaner who died inside a railcar had been sent in, unmonitored and without a harness, after atmospheric testing "triggered multiple sensor alarms" on a four-gas meter, federal authorities have determined.

The attendant who approved the entry was the victim's father, said Edward Doss, the owner of Environmental Remediation and Recovery Inc. of Mounds, IL, which now stands accused of multiple egregious safety violations in the worker's death.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has levied $118,400 in fines from citations for seven willful and 14 serious violations in the death of the 27-year-old. OSHA also placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Rex Bair / Edwards AFB Fire Department

In 2013, firefighters at Edwards Air Force Base in Illinois teamed up with the Kern County Fire Department to successfully rescue a man trapped inside a railcar. Federal confined-space safety regulations detail entry, monitoring and rescue requirements.

Doss, who also runs a safety consultancy called HSE Consulting in Cairo, IL, emphatically denied the OSHA allegations in an interview Friday (Dec. 12).

21 Violations

The cleaner was working May 20 inside a railcar that contained crude-oil residue when he was stricken, OSHA said.

Most of the OSHA citations allege confined-space violations. Serious violations reflect life-threatening hazards; willful violations, OSHA's highest level of infraction, reflect "plain indifference to worker safety and health."

The allegations include:

  • Failure to monitor permit-required confined spaces;
  • Allowing entry in unacceptable atmospheric conditions;
  • Failure to provide personal protective equipment, including self-contained breathing apparatus and respirators;
  • Inadequate rescue equipment;
  • Unclear rescue and emergency procedures;
  • Delays in calling 911 when employees were unable to rescue the victim;
  • Inadequate confined-space training; and
  • Inability of the local volunteer emergency team to handle such a rescue.

One count also alleges the use of a broken respirator. Doss said the unit's chin strap had been broken during the rescue attempt.

© / cniemann

OSHA accuses the company of seven willful and 14 serious violations, mostly related to confined space. The company's owner, a safety consultant, denies the allegations.

Another citation alleges lack of fall protection for employees working atop the railcar.

Cause of Death Questioned

In the interview, Doss said that his company had never had a reportable accident before.

He said his appeal was based on results of the victim's autopsy, which found no toxic vapors from the railcar in his lungs. Doss said the victim died of causes unrelated to the confined space.

OSHA said the victim "suffered from cardiac arrhythmia"; Doss said the autopsy showed cigarette smoke and other substances in the man's system.

Doss said the employee could have died "on a bench or in his car."

He also said that his worker's compensation carrier had deemed the death not compensable.

Doss said all of his employees, including the victim, had "signed off on" training within the prior 12 months.


Ventilation hoses provide air and exhaust toxic vapors during confined-space entry. The use of a guardrail would also be necessary to protect workers from potential falls.

He also said he had appropriate rescue equipment at the scene.

Procedures Defended

Doss did say:

  • The victim had not been wearing a harness;
  • The victim's father, who was acting as the entry attendant, had told the victim to enter the railcar; and
  • The victim had been in the car for about 20 minutes and was stricken "instantaneously" as he was preparing to exit.

OSHA said the victim had been allowed to enter the car despite pre-entry atmospheric testing that set off multiple alarms on a four-gas meter.

Doss said that he had "read" about the testing and that the victim's father had told him to go in.

"We had all of our parameters in place," said Doss. "We had all of our procedures and policies. ...We had all of the rescue equipment there.

"You expect a father to take care of his son."


Tagged categories: Confined space; Fatalities; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Railcars; Respirators; Ventilation

Comment from Mike McCloud, (12/15/2014, 7:29 AM)

Ventilate, Ventilate, Ventilate!!

Comment from Christopher Overmyer, (12/15/2014, 8:49 AM)

Best practice- use intrinsic lighting in atmospheres that are or could upon cleaning become flammable.(note the 10 dollar lamp in the photo)

Comment from Chuck Pease, (12/15/2014, 12:27 PM)

I worked for a company that allowed Home Depot halogens to be used in confined space flammable atmospheres.It happens more than you know!!!

Comment from Anna Jolly, (12/15/2014, 1:20 PM)

This person runs a safety consulting company? This is horrible!

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (12/16/2014, 8:52 AM)

The rescue workers on top of the rail car aren't wearing fall protection either.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (12/16/2014, 12:37 PM)

There are some major problems with this article. I do not believe any of the photos used are from the actual site. This accident happened in southern Illinois and Edwards AFB is in California. See a problem there? The employee was in a rail car with crude oil residue, but in over 25 years of working with rail cars I have yet to see a covered hopper car that hauled any kind of crude oil. The photo depicting the hatch cover is just that -a stock photo depicting a hatch cover, not a hatch cover from the actual accident site. The photo showing an open hole for entry and ventilation is not a hatch of a covered hopper car either, it is an open top of some type fabrication somewhere. What really stands out is the fact OSHA cites the cause of death as a heart problem, yet talks like infractions to their regulations are the cause. A two faced OSHA? Heaven forbid!

Comment from RICHARD SMITH, (12/17/2014, 6:34 AM)

Very good comment Jim!! I hope P.S. will follow up on your observations. I picked up on the same things you did. Who wrote this piece ? Rolling Stone. P.S. needs to understand that most of us who take time to read these articles know what were reading and looking at. Happy Holidays!!!

Comment from Mary Chollet, (12/17/2014, 7:11 AM)

As is often the case, no photos of the actual accident site were available here. In such cases, PaintSquare News relies on photos of relevant scenes and/or stock photography. We attempt at all times to display safe practices and regret that the Edwards AFB photo did not portray fall protection.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (12/17/2014, 8:24 AM)

Mary, the rescue guys in he Edwards AFB are likely pretty typical in not using fall protection during a rescue operation on a rail car. I don't have a problem with using that photo, just wanted to note the safety issue.

Comment from Billy Russell, (12/17/2014, 7:46 PM)

Prayers for this Family of this man that we lost, sympathy for the father he has to deal with this, sending his own son in the pictures and Fall protection of rescue workers is a mute point a father has sent his own son to his death Tragic loss

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