Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm in Seattle where they advocate for injured workers. Washington state is like Iowa, in that there are 27 states that have OSHA-approved state plans. Nebraska is not one of those states.
Regardless of where you are located, this website, How to File a Complaint with OSHA, can be helpful to workers in many situations. Because there’s a link on the page that explains how to file in each state, this information applies whether your state has an OSHA-approved plan or not. But if you have questions about an issue that is happening in your workplace, please contact an experienced lawyer for help.
A Seattle employer has been cited for multiple serious workplace health violations after a worker became entangled in a rotating shaft while working inside a confined space. In connection with the citation, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) fined Industrial Container Services $215,250 for exposing workers to serious harm or even death. L&I cited the company previously for many of these hazards, but they had not been corrected.
Industrial Container Services refurbishes metal drums and other industrial containers. The company operates a “drum shot-blaster unit,” a 24-foot long tunnel with a series of rotating shafts that move metal drums through as they’re being shot-blasted to remove paint and coatings.
L&I began its investigation in January 2015 after a worker was hospitalized after being injured while working inside a drum shot-blaster. The investigation found that workers were regularly entering the equipment to perform maintenance and repair without the necessary safety precautions.
Working inside a “confined space” area, such as the drum shot-blaster unit, without safety precautions can be deadly to workers and would-be rescuers. Confined space hazards can include suffocation, toxic atmospheres, engulfment, entrapment and other dangerous conditions. These incidents are fully preventable.
When a confined space has hazardous characteristics that could harm workers, it’s considered a “permit-required” confined space. That means employers must control access to the area and use a permit system to prevent unauthorized entry. Anyone working in or around a permit-required confined space must be trained and there must be safety measures and rescue procedures in place.
L&I cited the company for seven “failure to abate” serious violations related to the confined space hazards, and for not ensuring that moving parts were de-energized to prevent workers from becoming caught in machinery. These violations were originally cited in October 2013 and had not been corrected. Each of the violations carries a penalty of $22,750.
L&I also cited the company for four “repeat-serious” violations and four “serious” violations related to confined-space procedures and energy control measures (lockout/tagout), with penalties ranging from $11,700 to $4,550.
As a result of these safety issues, Industrial Container Solutions has been identified as a severe violator and could be subject to increased scrutiny at all its locations nationwide.
The company has appealed the citation. Penalty money paid in connection with a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.
For media information or a copy of the citation, contactElaine Fischer, L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.