Double Fatality in Waste Water Tank Leads to Multiple Fines, Citations in N.J.

OSHA has cited North East Linen for multiple alleged safety and health violations after a double fatality at the company's Linden, N.J., facility. The agency initiated its investigation on Dec. 1, 2007, following the fatal incident. Two employees, who were cleaning a waste water tank, were discovered at the bottom of the tank, which was oxygen-deficient and contained hazardous chemicals. The investigation resulted in one willful, 12 serious, and two other-than-serious violations with fines totaling $79,250.

"North East Linen did not take the appropriate steps to train its employees about potential hazards and to ensure its employees did not enter the waste water tank, which led to this tragedy," says Robert D. Kulick, director of OSHA's Avenel, N.J., area office.

The company was cited for a willful violation for failing to provide hazard communication training. The serious citations included failure to provide adequate means of egress; to take effective measures to prevent employees from entering the waste water tank; to lock out, or prevent accidental start-up of, equipment; to determine the presence and quantity of asbestos-containing material and not labeling the material; to close unused openings on an electrical panel; and to provide other necessary training.

"This horrible tragedy underscores the need for all employers to implement effective safety and health management systems," said Louis Ricca Jr., acting administrator for OSHA's New York region. "It also reinforces the need for employers to provide their employees with appropriate training, direction, personal protective equipment and engineering controls, particularly when working in and around confined spaces."

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