Confined Space Standards Lacking in Worker Fatality

Confined space standards judged to be at the center of a worker's death in North Dakota.Confined space standards, or lack of them, came into play for a Minot, North Dakota company. First Choice Energy was cited with nine serious safety violations by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Five of the nine citations involve violations of OSHA confined space standards, including lack of atmospheric testing, permits, signs, and emergency response procedures.



Confined Space Standards Were Central but Other Violations Cited

While lack of confined space standards was the central issue, the company was  also issued four other citations. These included:

involving lack of proper protection of workers from open pit fall hazards

lack of energy control and lockout/tag out procedures and equipment

failing to conduct annual inspections of energy control procedures

failure to train workers on such procedures.

OSHA investigated the work site as the result of the death of a worker at an oil field drilling and fluid disposal operation in Stanley, who was caught in an agitator of an oil field vacuum truck storage tank in March.

OSHA’s area director in Bismarck, North Dakota, Eric Brooks said, “First Choice Energy failed to develop and implement the most basic of confined space standards and energy control safety protocols. Companies have a responsibility to recognize – and train their workers to recognize – hazards unique to their job sites in addition to protecting workers from such hazards.”

A confined space is defined as a space with limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and which is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. The specific OSHA standards which apply to confined spaces can be found on the OSHA website at:

Proposed fines for the confined space standards violation and the four others are $33,000. First Choice Energy has 15 business days from receipt of the citation to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

For compliance assistance, to file a complaint, or report any possible dangers to workers, or to ask questions, the public can call the OSHA toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742). Information is also available on OSHA’s website at