Trench Collapse Fatality Results in OSHA Violation and $700,00 Fine

Fatal Trench Collapse claims life of employee and spawns $700,000 OSHA fine.On December 15, 2016, a fatal trench collapse at a residential Belton site took the life of an employee from Missouri-based Arrow Plumbing. Shortly thereafter, OSHA began an investigation of the incident. Nearly one month later, on January 20th, 2017, agency inspectors discovered that another Arrow employee was working in identical conditions in an unprotected trench, at another residential site. No employees were injured at the site of the second incident, though a secondary investigation was initiated and subsequent violations and citations were processed.

In both cases, OSHA determined that Arrow Plumbing LLC failed to provide safeguards for the prevention of trench collapse and did not provide cave-in training for employees. OSHA cited Arrow Plumbing for six willful and eight serious violations of workplace safety standards and proposed $714,142 in penalties.

Among the violations found at each site, were:

  • Failure to install a support system to protect employees from trench cave-in
  • Failure to train workers on how to identify hazards in trenching and excavation work
  • Failure to provide a ladder at all times

A fatal trench collapse is unfortunate and always preventable. One factor that compounds the natural dangers of a trench collapse is the fact that most sites feature entry into a confined space for the employee tasked with working in the trench. Confined spaces feature a very small margin of error for the prevention of fatality, as oxygen levels rapidly decrease with the increasing depth of the space. Another obvious factor is the distance that a potential fall could represent; the fall, alone, in a trench could prove fatal. Because of the inherent danger of confined space work, safety leaders would be wise to utilize a resource such as an online training course to ensure the safety of their respective employees and to maintain compliance with agency standards.

Safe and Sound Campaign to Target Confined Space Fatalities

Safe and Sound Campaign to Target Confined Space FatalitiesThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently launched their  new safety campaign called “Safe and Sound”, in an effort to reduce injuries and fatalities in the workplace.

OSHA conducted 12 fatality inspections in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska from October 2016 through February 2017. This number represents an increase of five deaths, up from 7, in a period of the same duration, from October 2015 through February 2016. A significant increase in fatalities associated with confined space entry and trenching/excavating was shown to exist in OSHA’s fatality research.

Because of the increase in fatalities, OSHA initiated the Safe and Sound campaign, calling on employers to review their current health and safety programs. As part of the campaign, OSHA identified three core tenets of any successful health and safety program:

  • Management leadership: An executive level of management who is committed to establishing, maintaining, and improving the program, continually. A top-level management who will provide any necessary resources.
  • Worker participation: An atmosphere where workers are invited to actively identify solutions. Research has shown that increased worker engagement leads to high productivity, job satisfaction, and retention. Incorporating the worker in everyday problem-solving can lower turnover ad recruitment costs.
  • A “find and fix” system: Fostering an approach where employers and employees, alike, work, proactively and routinely, to identify and address hazards before they cause injury or illness.


OSHA Kansas City Regional Administrator, Kim Stille, said, “Workplace safety and health incidents hurt workers and their families, and they cost businesses capital – better invested in growing their business and creating jobs. By identifying and controlling job-related hazards that can lead to injuries and illnesses, businesses can improve their safety and health programs, save money, and improve competitiveness.”

OSHA’s new Safe and Sound campaign is one way that the agency is fostering an inclusive approach to solving the growing fatality problem in certain workplaces, like those which deal with confined spaces. The agency has implemented a specialized program where employees are expected to hold personal responsibility for themselves and those around them. In this campaign, the skillset and input of the employee is just as important as that of the employer. For this reason, one resource that employees can utilize to maintain compliance in the confined space workplace is an OSHA-approved online training course.

Trench Collapse Results in Fatality and OSHA Investigation

Trench collapse fatality sparks OSHA investigation in Pennsylvania.The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration was recently prompted to perform an investigation as a result of a February 22nd, 2017 incident in South Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. A young man, Adam Skokut Jr., was involved in a residential trench collapse, while working in a confined space, to install a septic system with his father, Adam Skokut Sr. The OSHA investigation is ongoing and no formal citation or statement has been released by the agency.

The incident, which occurred at roughly 9:30AM on February 22nd, prompted the dispatch of the county’s Trench Rescue and Structural Collapse Team. The unit’s coordinator, Bill Watkins, said that trench-collapse can, “happen in one-half of a second”, and remarked that there did not appear to be a trench-box or wall-security shield used in the project.

The cause of death was determined as compression suffocation as a result of the trench collapse.

Adam Skokut Sr. operates A-Affordable Sanitation Inc., a Smithton, PA-based septic, drain, and sanitation company. The company has no prior OSHA citations.

OSHA Pittsburgh Regional Office assistant area director, David Rhodes, said, “There is no further specific information we can release at this time.” OSHA Philadelphia Office representative, Leni Fortson, stated that the agency has, “begun an investigation into the fatality”. A public report should be available within 60 days.

OSHA requires trenches which are five feet or deeper to incorporate a protective system, unless the excavation site is entirely in stable rock. For trenches less than 5 feet deep, a competent person may determine that a protective system is not required.

Confined space accidents are among the most fatal and unstable, when underway. For this reason, preparation and pre-emptive appraisal of any worksite involving a confined space, especially those which involved confined spaces which are deeper than ten feet, is of the utmost importance. One resource that safety leaders can utilize to ensure the safety of their employees and OSHA compliance, is an online confined-space training course.

Confined Space Compliance Among Many Violations for Georgia Company

Confined Space Compliance can be attained by proper education and training.The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued citations to Georgia-based waste cardboard and plastics company, Nemo Plastics Inc., for multiple violations at a Gainesville facility. The citations included 21 serious and 3 other-than-serious violations including combustible dust and confined space compliance. These violations were determined by OSHA, following an investigation which was prompted by an anonymous complaint. The proposed penalty for these citations is $133,443.



OSHA determined that the following violations existed:

  • Failure to prevent an accumulation of combustible dust
  • Failure to provide employees with personal protective clothing
  • Failure to implement a hazardous energy control program
  • Failure to evaluate various spaces (for confined space compliance), to determine if they were permit-required confined spaces
  • Failure to properly implement machine-guards
  • Failure to develop a noise monitoring program
  • Failure to prevent exposure to electrical hazards
  • Failure to provide Appendix D for employees using respirators
  • Failure to post combustible dust warning signs

Regarding the various confined space compliance, machine-guarding and combustible dust issues, OSHA Atlanta-East area director, William Fulcher, said, “Nemo Plastics is responsible to assess workplace hazards and ensure measures are taken to protect employees. Workers should not have to risk their lives or health to provide for themselves and their families. The hazards identified during this complaint inspection are preventable by taking basic safety precautions such as providing personal protective equipment, performing routine housekeeping and guarding machines so that a worker doesn’t get injured or killed.”

Violations involving confined space compliance are among the most dangerous and, because they involve smaller, constricted areas, can often become potentiated in a much quicker fashion than standard violation. Confined space injuries, especially those that are presented in tandem with hazardous or combustible chemicals typically feature a high morbidity rate. For that reason, safety leaders should utilize training courses and mock-inspections as a resource to ensure the safety of their employees and to maintain compliance

Confined Space Electrocution Causes Death of Gary Works Employee

Confined space electrocution caused the death of a Gary Works EmployeeThe United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued citations to Pittsburgh-based steel making company, U.S. Steel, for violations that occurred at an Indiana facility, Gary Works resulting in the confined space electrocution of an employee. These violations, totaling four, and all serious in their listing, were determined, following a state investigation, which came as the result of a June 15, 2016 death. OSHA has assigned a proposed penalty of $28,000 to these citations.

67 year-old employee, Charles Kremke, suffered a fatal confined space electrocution. Kremke was performing maintenance on a 250-volt fuse-holder in the back of a 2 ft. wide x 2 ft. deep x 6 ft. high cabinet in the Westinghouse basement of the No. 1 Caster. While performing his maintenance, a 120-volt programmable logic-control and 480-volt transformer were still active.

The OSHA-led investigation yielded the following violations:

  • Failure to de-energize live parts prior to employee maintenance
  • Failure to provide adequate training for the distinguishing of live parts from other electrical equipment
  • Failure to test circuit elements and electric equipment part to ensure de-energizing prior to maintenance
  • Failure to provide employee with protective shielding or barriers for the prevention of inadvertent contact with electrical currents while working in confined spaces

Per IOSHA  (Indiana OSHA) representative, Amanda Stanley, U.S. Steel is exercising its right for an informal settlement and is currently in the process of negotiating a settlement agreement. U.S. Steel representative, Erin DiPietro declined to comment.

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker exercised its right for an informal settlement meeting, and IOSHA is in the process of working out a settlement agreement, IOSHA spokeswoman Amanda Stanley said.

Any error in work performed in confined spaces, albeit routine, can very quickly escalate from a simple mistake to a fatal one. While confined space hazards are first associated with suffocation, confined space electrocution is also a dangerous and many times fatal situation. Because the parameters of work in confined spaces are so limited, the room for error is also such. In light of the dangerous nature of work done in such circumstances, it behooves employers to make every effort to maintain compliance with OSHA health and safety standards, by utilizing every resource available.

Confined Space Death of Employee Sparks Severe Fine

Confined space death of a feed company in Nebraska sparks half-million dollar fine.On November 3, 2016, the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued citations to Nebraska-based animal feed company, Prinz Grain and Feed, related to a May 18, 2016 employee confined space death at their West Point facility. The citations included (3) willful, (15) serious, and (2) other-than-serious violations. OSHA has proposed penalties of $526,633.

The workplace incident occurred as the 52-year-old employee was working to clear crusted corn from the sides of a grain bin. The wall of corn collapsed upon the employee and engulfed him in hundreds of pounds of grain, inflicting numerous injuries upon him. Although he was recovered by an emergency crew, he died two days later.

Prinz had been previously cited by OSHA. In addition to those violations which were assigned for the most recent incident, Prinz has also been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations.

OSHA Kansas City regional administrator, Kim Stille, said, “An engulfment often happens when bridged grain and vertical piles of stored grain collapse unexpectedly, as in this tragic case. The density, weight and unpredictable behavior of flowing grains make it nearly impossible for workers to rescue themselves without help. In more than 60 percent of grain engulfments, workers suffer fatal injuries. These usually are caused by not following proper safety procedures that prevent confined space death. OSHA urges employers and workers in this hazardous industry to review and implement OSHA’s grain-handling standards to prevent injuries and loss of lives.”

Among others, OSHA’s inspection yielded the following violations that lead to the confined space death:

  • Failure to issue confined space permits for entry into grain bins and pits
  • Failure to test atmospheric conditions in grain bins and pits before allowing workers access
  • Failure to provide employee training for confined space entry
  • Failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures

Jeff Funke, OSHA Omaha area director, said, “OSHA has done extensive outreach in the past several years working with leaders, farmers and those employed in the grain and feed industry to increase awareness of hazards in the grain industry and discuss ways to protect workers on the job and prevent these tragedies. OSHA is always available to answers questions on how you can protect your workers on the job.”

One resource which those safety leaders and employers who manage workspaces which feature confined spaces can utilize is an OSHA-approved on-site training course.

Confined Space Program Missing At Animal Feed Company

A confined space program can saves lives and enhance rapid response to emergencies.The lack of a confined space program and other safety hazards prompted an October 26th, 2016 inspection by the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency issued citations to Nebraska-based animal feed company, Nutrition Services, for 25 serious and 1 other-than-serious violations, involving electrical shock and confined-space hazards at a York facility. These citations come, following a July 2016 inspection, which was prompted by information that Nutrition Services was in violation of grain-handling safety standards. OSHA has proposed a penalty of $101,898.

Confined space programs are important to those companies that have workers that routinely work in areas where the lack of oxygen may be present due to various environmental conditions and a restricted access area.

OSHA determined that the following violations were extant at the company:

  • Failure to implement a confined space program
  • Failure to test atmospheric conditions in grain bins
  • Failure to remove accumulations of grain dust in grain bins
  • Failure to guard live electrical parts

Failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures

Failure to perform preventative equipment maintenance

  • Failure to develop a hazard communication program for employees
  • Failure to guard floor openings to prevent falls
  • Failure to educate and train workers on grain handling hazards


Jeff Funke, OSHA Omaha area director, said, “Two Nebraska workers have lost their lives in 2016 in the grain handling industry and far too many preventable fatalities and injuries continue to occur. OSHA’s grain-handling standards address the numerous serious and life-threatening hazards commonly found in grain bins by training workers in these hazards and, by following recommended safety procedures, employers can prevent injuries.”

A certified Confined space program targets accidents that are often preventable, through a system of education, training, and procedures. These protect workers operating in confined spaces and provide them with active monitoring, so that assistance can come in an expedient fashion, in the case of an emergency. One resource that employers can utilize to ensure that they are compliant with all OSHA confined space safety standards and to prioritize the safety of their workforce is an OSHA-approved on-site training course.

Ammonia Leak Leads to Confined Space Entry Death of Employee

Ammonia Leak Causes Employee Death at Seafood Facility in Boston.An Ammonia Leak at a Boston-based fish and seafood distributor, Stavis Seafoods lead to the  death of an employee. The United States Department of Labor’s U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently conducted an investigation of the incident involving Brian Caron, an employee at the Stavis Seafoods Braintree facility,  who was overcome by a fatal-level of ammonia, due to a leak. An inoperable ammonia-sensor alarm in the machine room of the Stavis facility was also uncovered. The OSHA investigation showed that a burst pipe caused the ammonia leak and that several employees, besides Caron, were exposed to dangerous levels of the ammonia vapor. The proposed penalty for the citation, which yielded 20 separate violations, is, $173,168.

Among others, the OSHA investigation produced the following violations regarding the ammonia leak found at the facility:

  • Failure to ensure proper containment of ammonia within the machine room (physical inspection showed sizable holes in the flooring and no door to separate the machine room from a maintenance/storage room)
  • Failure to test and calibrate ammonia leak sensors
  • Failure to establish and implement adequate inspection schedule for pressure vessels
  • Failure to label ammonia-piping properly
  • Failure to provide ventilation system for prevention of possible combustion of ammonia vapors

OSHA Boston area director, James Mulligan, said, “The company’s failure to follow industry and OSHA standards exposed its employees to the hazards of an ammonia release as well as falls, electric shock, hazardous chemicals, and delayed or obstructed exit from the facility during a leak or other emergency. It’s clear that Stavis Seafoods must take effective action to correct these hazards and prevent their recurrence, so that no other employees are harmed on the job.”

Industries which incorporate combustible or potentially fatal chemicals are inherently dangerous. One way to combat the potentialities which may occur in such a workspace is to utilize every resource which may promote or ensure compliance, especially as regards confined space and the handling of potentially dangerous chemicals. There are many OSHA-approved training courses which provide instruction for safety leaders and employees, to this end.

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.

Confined Space Asphyxiation Draws OSHA Investigation

Confined Space Asphyxiation draws OSHA Investigation in California Casting plant.On March 13, 2016, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an inspection of Garden Grove, CA based metal manufacturing and casting company, Kitty Hawk Inc., following the confined space asphyxiation of an employee. The employee was an untrained assistant and was sent into a pressure vessel furnace to perform maintenance on it. The employee did not utilize an oxygen sensor for this task. Because the unit which the employee descended into contained argon gas and was confined, the employee eventually lost consciousness.

OSHA cited Kitty Hawk for nine safety violations in light of the confined space asphyxiation. Among those nine total violations, there were:

(3) three serious

(3) three serious/accident-related

(3) three general

These violations involved:

  • Failure to identify particular confined spaces as requiring a permit
  • Failure to properly train employees on confined space safety regulations
  • Failure to properly monitor confined space, during maintenance
  • Failure to develop effective rescue and emergency procedures for confined spaces

OSHA created regulations for confined spaces in 1978. These standards are in place to mitigate the potential disaster that comes along with operating in confined spaces, including but not relegated to, chemical contamination, combustion, serious injury, or death. Confined space asphyxiation is a clear and present danger when empoyee are not fully trained in proper safety protocol. The state of California identifies a confined space as requiring a permit for operation when the following criteria are extant:

  • Space contains hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere, including too little or too much oxygen, and/or presence of toxic gases
  • Contains material that can potentially engulf an employee
  • Has an internal layout that can trap or asphyxiate an employee
  • Has any other serious safety or health hazard, such as machinery with moving parts, sources of electrical shocks, burning or drowning hazards

An OSHA-approved confined space training course can provide an employer or employee tasked with operating within a permit-required space the requisite confined space hazard training. Such training can spell the difference between compliance and citation, or potential injury.