OSHA Fines Utility Firm $118,580 Following Worker's Death in Manhole

OSHA's Fort Worth Area Office initiated an inspection on June 28 in response to a report that employees working on a new sewer line were exposed to inhalation of a hazardous chemical.

OSHA has cited Granbury Contracting and Utilities Inc. for two willful and two serious safety and health violations following the death of a worker at the company's Gordon, Texas, facility. Proposed penalties total $118,580.

OSHA's Fort Worth Area Office initiated an inspection on June 28 in response to a report that employees working on a new sewer line were exposed to inhalation of a hazardous chemical. One employee who entered a manhole to remove a plug in order to flush out accumulated debris became overwhelmed by toxic fumes and died. Another employee was hospitalized after attempting to rescue his co-worker.

The willful violations are for failing to test for atmospheric conditions and provide adequate ventilation and emergency retrieval equipment prior to entry into a manhole.

The serious violations are failing to provide or require the use of respirators as well as conduct an assessment to determine the potential for a hazardous atmosphere where oxygen deficiency, methane, and/or hydrogen sulfide were present or likely to be present.

"The company failed to ensure that proper confined space entry procedures were followed," said Jack Rector, OSHA's area director in Fort Worth. "If it had followed OSHA's safety standards, it is possible that this tragic incident could have been prevented."

Granbury Contracting and Utilities employs about 30 workers at its Gordon location.

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