Confined Space Entry Violations Lead to Employee Death

Confined space entry violations lead to the death of an employee at TimkenSteel.Confined space entry violations at TimkenSteel, an Ohio-based alloy steel bar and tubing manufacturer, were recently cited for a total of six violations at their Canton facility, following the confined-space related death of one of their employees. Among the various violations, four fell under the “serious” heading and the remaining two were “repeat” offenses. TimkenSteel underwent an earlier OSHA inspection in March of 2016, which revealed multiple fall-hazards and a failure to install guardrails on employee walkways. The proposed penalty for the recent September citations is $113,131.

The employee death which prompted the most recent investigation by OSHA was as a result of a nitrogen leak. The employee, who was conducting routine inspections of the company fire-extinguishers, entered an elevator control room which contained an oxygen deficient atmosphere. The oxygen-level in the elevator cabin, having been depleted beyond the viable average of twenty to twenty-one percent, due to nitrogen contamination, caused the employee to asphyxiate. The confined space entry violations were uncovered during a subsequent investigation by OSHA inspectors.

Howard Eberts, OSHA Cleveland Area Director, said, “As a result of the fatality, the company discontinued the use of nitrogen to power tools and removed all the connections from the ventilation systems. TimkenSteel has made significant strides in fixing safety discrepancies and improving the framework of the safety and health management system in its aging plants in recent months. These two investigations demonstrate that maintaining a safe working environment requires a commitment to continuous improvement.”

The confined space entry violations from the August citation, included:

  • Failure to protect workers from potentially hazardous atmospheres
  • Failure to implement a training system for employees which would provide education for nitrogen-powered tools and their hazards
  • Failure to implement a training system which would provide education for employees as to how to identify nitrogen leakage

TimkenSteel signed a settlement agreement in August of 2016, with the stipulation that they would abate those hazards cited by OSHA at all Ohio facilities, including those violations related to fall-protection standards.

Confined space entry hazards are among those which can provide especially dangerous, as little or no oversight can easily result in death. One resource which employers can implement is an OSHA approved confined space, on-site, training course.