OSHA Proposes Penalties of $287K Following Death of Two Workers from Not Enough Oxygen

OSHA Proposes Penalties of $287K Following Death of Two Workers from Not Enough Oxygen

The employer did not test the oxygen levels in the sewer manhole, OSHA said.

Two workers died from injuries after not having enough oxygen when in a confined space, OSHA said. Their employer now faces citations and proposed penalties of $287,000.

According to a news release, in June 2022 at a worksite in Edmond, Oklahoma, a worker trying to perform testing became unconscious after entering a 20-foot-deep sewer manhole. Another worker attempted to rescue the first worker but became unconscious after entering the manhole. Due to not enough oxygen, both workers eventually lost their lives.

After the incident in the confined space, OSHA found that the employer, Belt Construction Inc. of Texarkana, Arkansas, did not conduct testing of oxygen levels or get permits, the news release said. Workers were also allegedly not trained on “confined space entry procedures” and were not given rescue equipment.

"Two lives were lost—and family, friends and co-workers are left to grieve—because Belt Construction Inc. failed to follow legally required steps designed to prevent a needless incident like this from happening," said OSHA Area Director Steven Kirby in Oklahoma City in the news release.

Belt Construction Inc. was cited for six serious and two willful violations and faces proposed penalties of $287,150.

From 2011 to 2018, an average of almost 129 workers lost their lives every year in confined space incidents, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In that span, 2017 saw the highest amount of confined-space-related deaths, with 166 deaths.

"Employers assigning people to work inside a confined space must comply with safety standards, including providing and ensuring the use of required safety equipment, and obtain all necessary permits before the job starts to avoid tragedy,” Kirby continued in the news release.

About the Author

Alex Saurman is the Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety.

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