Personal Injury

Deadly accident at California construction site Leads To Steep Penalties

OSHA confined spaces 280x210 Deadly accident at California construction site Leads To Steep PenaltiesA deadly accident at a residential construction site in Los Angeles resulted in fines of more than $350,000 for two California contractors.

The California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, said it assessed fines of $352,570 for multiple workplace safety and health violations against D&D Construction Specialties, Inc. and Tyler Development, Inc. following an incident in which a worker who was lowered into a 50-foot drainage shaft fell to his death.

General contractor Tyler Development was constructing a single-family residence in the Bel Air area of Los Angeles and hired subcontractor D&D Construction to install reinforced concrete posts known as caissons on the property.

On Oct. 21, 2016, a D&D Construction worker entered the drainage shaft, which was 4.5-feet in diameter and lined with concrete, to clean out mud and debris. He stood inside a bucket attached to a mini crawler crane with no personal fall protection. After descending 10 feet into the shaft, the worker lost consciousness due to the oxygen deficient atmosphere, fell approximately 40 feet, and drowned in a foot of water.

Cal/OSHA cited D&D Construction $337,700 for 13 violations. The accident-related violations were cited for the company’s failure to:

  • ensure safe entry into the confined space;
  • have an effective method to rescue the worker in the confined space in an emergency;
  • test the environment to determine if additional protective equipment, such as a respirator or oxygen tank, were required to work safely in the shaft.

Tyler was cited $14,870 for five violations for its failure to:

  • evaluate the worksite for possible permit-required confined spaces;
  • ensure that the subcontractor meets all requirements to comply with a permit space program;
  • protect workers from the hazard of impalement by guarding all exposed reinforced steel ends that extend up to six feet above the work surface with protective covers.

By definition, confined spaces are large enough for workers to enter, but have limited openings for exit and entry, with a potential for hazards related to the atmosphere. Confined spaces typically include water and sewer pipes, boilers, silos, kilns, vaults, tunnels, and pumping stations.

In 2011, there were seven confined space fatalities in California. In two of the incidents, rescue was attempted by co-workers without proper evacuation training, resulting in the death of one worker and serious injuries to two workers.Those accidents prompted Cal/OSHA to launch a confined space emphasis program in 2012 to raise awareness of these hazards and ensure employers follow proper safeguards. This safety program includes training in identifying hazards, creating a safety plan and rescue procedures.