Two Companies Fined for California Confined Space Fatality

A worker entered a drainage shaft last fall to clean out mud and debris. He stood inside a bucket attached to a mini crawler crane with no personal fall protection. After descending 10 feet into the shaft, the worker lost consciousness due to the oxygen-deficient atmosphere, fell approximately 40 feet, and drowned in a foot of water at the bottom.

Cal/OSHA has cited two companies, fining them $352,570, for workplace safety and health violations, including 10 serious and three willful violations, following an incident in which a worker lowered into a 50-foot drainage shaft fell to his death. Neither D&D Construction Specialties, Inc. nor Tyler Development, Inc. followed permit-required confined space procedures to work in confined spaces, according to the agency.

Cal/OSHA had cited D&D Construction, Inc. five years ago for violating similar safety orders at a different site.

The general contractor, Tyler Development was constructing a single-family residence in the Bel Air area and hired subcontractor D&D Construction to install and service reinforced concrete posts known as caissons. On Oct. 21, 2016, a D&D Construction worker entered the drainage shaft, which was 4.5 feet in diameter and lined with concrete, to clean out mud and debris. He stood inside a bucket attached to a mini crawler crane with no personal fall protection. After descending 10 feet into the shaft, the worker lost consciousness due to the oxygen-deficient atmosphere, fell approximately 40 feet, and drowned in a foot of water at the bottom.

"Cal/OSHA launched a confined space educational program to bring attention to the dangers and preventable deaths that occur in confined spaces," said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. "The program helps employers identify hazards and create effective safety plans that include air monitoring, rescue procedures and training before work begins."

The agency fined D&D Construction $337,700 for 13 violations, including two willful serious accident-related, one willful serious, one serious accident-related, six serious, and three general in nature. The accident-related violations were cited for the company’s failure to ensure safe entry into the confined space; have an effective method to rescue the worker in the confined space in an emergency; and test the environment to determine whether additional protective equipment, such as a respirator or oxygen tank, were required to work safely in the shaft.

Tyler was cited $14,870 for five violations, three of them classified as serious violations, for failing to evaluate the work site for possible permit-required confined spaces; to ensure the subcontractor met all requirements to comply with a permit space program; and to protect workers from the hazard of impalement by guarding all exposed reinforced steel ends that extend up to 6 feet above the work surface with protective covers.

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