On April 19, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) announced that Meeder Equipment Company, a Rancho Cucamonga, California, equipment company, faces $272,250 in fines for serious safety violations following a confined space death of a worker who suffocated in a 10,000-gallon propane gas tank.
On August 18, 2022, a mechanic employed by Meeder entered a tank to spray a valve inside. He was later found unresponsive inside the permit-required confined space, according to Cal/OSHA. Meeder employees attempted to rescue him without proper respiratory protection but were unsuccessful, as they were nearly overcome by the lack of oxygen inside the tank. The Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department rescued the employee and transported him to a nearby hospital, where he died.
Meeder was cited with a willful and serious violation after Cal/OSHA determined the employer failed to follow confined space requirements, didn’t provide employees with safety training or respiratory equipment, and didn’t have an emergency rescue plan.
Cal/OSHA also cited the employer for failure to:
- Test or monitor the atmosphere inside the permit-required confined space during initial and subsequent rescue entries.
- Provide at least one attendant outside of the permit-required confined space during all entry operations.
- Prepare a proper confined space entry permit.
- Provide effective training to perform duties while working inside a permit-required confined space.
“Working in confined spaces is extremely dangerous, so the necessary emergency equipment must be available, and employees trained in its use if rescue is needed,” Cal/OSHA Chief Jeff Killip said in a statement. “Identifying hazards and having a rescue plan before a worker enters a confined space can prevent tragedy.”
Construction company chief convicted in confined space death
On April 19, Cal/OSHA also outlined the successful prosecution of a construction company’s president in a fatal confined space incident.
The agency’s Bureau of Investigations (BOI), which investigates employee fatality and serious injury cases and prepares and refers cases to local and state prosecutors for criminal prosecution, referred to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office a worker’s 2016 confined space death for criminal prosecution.
In November 2022, Daniel T. Moore, the president of D&D Construction Specialties, Inc., of Sun Valley, California, was convicted of felony California Labor Code violations and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine, which included $22,000 to the victim’s family and $15,000 to the BOI; to serve 1 year of formal probation; and to complete Cal/OSHA training.
The victim in the D&D case was employed by a licensed general contractor as a laborer and was assigned to clean water, muck, and other debris from the bottom of a 50-foot-deep, 48-inch-wide drainage sump, according to Cal/OSHA. The victim stood on a metal bucket attached to a small crane that lowered him into the shaft opening. After descending 15 to 20 feet, he became unresponsive and fell head-first to the bottom of the shaft. The victim died of drowning.
Cal/OSHA’s enforcement branch issued citations to D&D, including a serious accident-related citation for failure to conduct a hazard inspection before this work was performed.
Assistant Secretary of Labor Doug Parker was Cal/OSHA’s chief before his nomination to lead federal OSHA.