Montana Contractor Fined $250K for Confined Space Injury

November 15, 2017
OSHA rules regulate confined spaces

OSHA cited a Billings, Montana general contractor and a Rock Springs, Wyoming, subcontractor for exposing workers to numerous safety hazards, causing an employee to suffer severe burns. The companies face $249,516 in proposed penalties.

On May 5, 2017, a Coleman Construction Inc. employee suffered third-degree burns when compressed oxygen inside an underground duct caused a fire on a construction site in Glendive, Montana.

The subcontractor was cited for failing to provide mechanical ventilation or an underground air monitoring system, and failing to report the hospitalization of the burned employee in a timely manner. The company faces $189,762 in proposed penalties.

While doing work on a culvert installation, employees were exposed to acute illness, burns, impairment of ability to self-rescue, and incapacitation while removing soil, inspecting, tacking and welding inside a 36-inch culvert. No safety training was provided to show the workers how to recognize and avoid hazards associated with working in a confined space without adequate ventilation or adequate communication to summon rescue in an emergency. No fire resistant clothing was provided or required for protection from arc welding flash and thermal heat.

OSHA issued willful violations to Coleman Construction because no competent person was assigned to monitor the underground construction tasks; did not test the atmosphere in the underground work areas for oxygen, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and other toxic substances; did not provide fresh air in sufficient quantities in the work area nor any mechanical ventilation systems.

Coleman Construction also failed to report the in-patient hospitalization of the burned employee within 24-hours as required by OSHA.

OSHA also cited the general contractor, JTL Group, doing business as Knife River, for not ensuring that safety precautions were taken at the worksite. Proposed penalties total $59,754.

“Confined workspaces pose an immediate and substantial danger to workers,” said OSHA Area Director Arthur Hazen, in Billings. “It is vitally important that employers properly identify, test, control, and ventilate the atmosphere to ensure the safety of workers in confined spaces.”

On May 5, 2017, OSHA issued serious violations for failing to ensure rigging equipment was permanently affixed on a culvert installation site, exposing workers to hazards while using an unmarked spreader bar to lower the jack and bore machine and rails into the excavation.

Other serious violations on that site on or about May 5 included exposure to struck by hazards while handling the sections of auger and culvert with a unmarked, unrated and damaged endless synthetic web sling and damaged eye; exposed to struck by hazards while handling section of auger and culvert with a damaged Crosby lifting hook attaching the load to a Hitachi excavator.

Additionally, employees were exposed to hazards while setting section of auger and culvert on the rails of the jack and boring machine adjacent to uncapped compressed oxygen cylinders.

The full OSHA complaint is available here:

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Source: OSHA