Major Fine, Denials in Railcar Death

MONDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2014


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.

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.

ConfinedSpace
©iStock.com / 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.

ConfinedSpace
OSHA

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

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