Confined Space-Related Death Leads to $207,800 Fine for Chemical Recycler

OSHA has cited Houston-based CES Environmental Services Inc. with one alleged willful, 32 alleged serious, and one other-than-serious violations following the death of a worker at the company's worksite in Port Arthur, Texas.

"Hazardous chemicals and the improper handling of those chemicals have unfortunately claimed the life of a worker," said Dean McDaniel, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "If this employer had followed OSHA's standards, it is possible that this tragedy could have been avoided."

OSHA's Houston South Area Office began its investigation April 14 at the company's worksite on Gulf Way Drive following the death of a worker who was exposed to hydrogen sulfide. A willful citation was issued for failing to provide a rescue team to promptly respond to an emergency when workers enter a confined space. OSHA issues a willful citation when an employer exhibits plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The investigation found 32 serious violations, including failing to evaluate the worksite for exposures to hydrogen sulfide, develop procedures for waste stream processing, develop decontamination procedures, and train workers on the hazards associated with confined space entry on barges. A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The other-than-serious violation was issued for failing to remove liquid waste as often as necessary.

OSHA cited CES with proposed penalties of $16,600 in December 2008 after the investigation of a worker's death in Port Arthur; and currently OSHA has an open investigation of a July fatality that occurred at the company's Houston location.

Proposed penalties for the April 14 investigation total $207,800. CES, which employs about 155 workers at the Houston and Port Arthur sites, has 15 business days from receipt of citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Houston South area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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