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Tank Maker Held Liable in Fatal Fall

Monday, February 2, 2015

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A nine-foot fatal fall from a faulty forklift has triggered a variety of federal safety citations against an Idaho tank manufacturer, including many related to its painting operation.

Ernesto Paramo Bernal, 30, was working from a forklift basket about 9 a.m. Aug. 4, 2014, at Superior Steel Products in Boise, ID, when the basket fell off the lift and onto the concrete floor below.

Paramo Bernal, a welder, died at a hospital about 90 minutes later.

Superior Steel Products

Superior Steel Products offers a range of tank manufacturing, repair and coating services.

Superior Steel Products manufactures, services, repairs, coats, blasts and maintains steel and aluminum storage tanks, including crude oil tankers and fuel and chemical transportation tanks.

Unsecured Basket

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Superior Steel for numerous hazards related to training, modifications and operation of its forklifts.

OSHA said Paramo Bernal had been using a shop-made man basket as a work platform that was not secured to the forks, and he was not wearing fall protection.

The post-incident inspection also turned up confined-space, flammable-liquid and respiratory hazards. Employees were also allegedly required to buy their own personal protective equipment, which OSHA requires employers to provide.

Shop Painting Violations

Multiple citations allege hazards in the shop painting areas. Those allegations include:

  • Use of an electric scissor lift not classified as explosion proof within five feet of tank painting;
  • Use of a diesel-powered fork lift not classified for hazardous locations within five feet of two painting areas;
  • Lack of fire extinguishers;
  • Use of a gas-powered paint sprayer in two shops with flammable vapors;
  • Lack of "No Smoking" signs around flammable vapors;
  • Use of halogen work lamps, including inside tanks where solvents and other chemicals were in use;
  • Failure to evaluate respiratory hazards for painters and welders working inside tanks;
  • Lack of medical evaluation and respirator fit testing for painters;
  • Allowing facial hair on painters who must wear tight-fitting elastomeric respirators;
  • Lack of respiratory protection training for painters;
  • Spray painting and welding inside tanks without periodic testing of the atmosphere;
  • Failure to prepare rescue equipment before employees entered tanks in the blasting, painting and inspection areas; and
  • Lack of confined-space training and rescue practice in the paint shop and other areas.

Proposed fines for the citations (detailed here and here) total $43,000.

Superior Steel Products did not respond Friday (Jan. 30) to a request for comment.

According to OSHA records, Superior Steel was cited in 2010 for one other-than-serious and four serious violations. The company paid a fine of $750, reduced from $1,200.

Forklift Fatalities

According to OSHA, nearly one-fourth of Idaho workplace deaths over the past year involved improper forklift use.

ForkliftOperator / kali9

Nearly one in four Idaho workplace fatalities over the past year involved improper forklift use. The toll has prompted a new Local Emphasis Program on forklift safety.

The agency's Boise Area Office has developed a Local Emphasis Program for the Powered Industrial Trucks (forklift) enforcement program to target many of the hazards found during their investigation.

"We send our condolences to the family and friends of Ernesto Paramo," said Galen Blanton, acting OSHA regional administrator in Seattle.

"They lost someone they loved because Superior Steel Products did not ensure basic safety procedures for dangerous heavy equipment."


Tagged categories: Enforcement; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Shop-applied coatings; Tanks

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