A West Coast company that manufactures manhole covers, drain grates and other custom metal work has been fined again for workplace safety and health violations by California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). The company, whose primary clients include construction companies, was fined nearly $300,000 after a confined space incident that resulted in the amputation of an employee’s legs.
Was this a first-time mistake? No. In fact, the California-based company had already been fined for similar violations eight years ago. One of the most recent citations written by Cal/OSHA was for a willful serious accident-related violation. That particular citation was handed down because the manufacturer had, in the past, deliberately chosen not to implement necessary measures to protect the safety of their employees who perform cleaning and servicing operations. Including willful and serious in the citation demonstrates that the company knew what the safety requirements were, knew that ignoring them could result in serious or even fatal injury to employees, but proceeded anyway.
Cal/OSHA determined that, in this recent incident, the company intentionally avoided safety measures regarding confined spaces. Two workers were involved in the incident; both were cleaning a 38-foot long auger screw conveyor at the bottom hopper of an industrial air filtration device without powering off or locking out the machinery. One employee went back inside the 20-inch opening after they had finished cleaning to pick up a work light he had left behind. A maintenance staff person, who was some distance away, powered up the equipment and the auger screw pulled the employee into the screw conveyor. The conveyor pulled the employee in with such force that emergency personnel could free him only after amputating both legs.
Lockout/tagout standards are not new, and Cal/OSHA has detailed information on their website. In fact, they started an “Confined Space Emphasis” awareness campaign six years ago, to make sure that employers were aware of worker safety requirements and how to mitigate hazards in the workplace. The California manufacturer, who was cited in this case, was charged with deliberately operating outside of those safety requirements, therefore knowingly endangering the health and safety of its workers.
What exactly is a confined space? It’s defined as an area that is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work, has limited or restricted means of entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, is the division within the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) that helps protect California’s workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace. Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch provides free and voluntary assistance to employers to improve their safety and health programs.
ESC Services, a Rockwell Automation brand, provides lockout/tagout procedures uniquely designed for your company to help avoid costly fines, assembly delays and, most importantly, injuries to your employees.