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March 22, 2013
OSHA cites Missouri businesses in manhole death

Failure to comply with confined space regulations can be deadly—and costly for employers. An August 2012 employee fatality has resulted in OSHA citations for a Bridgeton coatings manufacturer and a St. Louis contractor.

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A worker overcome by exposure to methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) collapsed and died inside an 18-foot-deep manhole during construction of a sanitary sewer lift station. MEK, also known as a butanone, is used as an industrial solvent.

The manufacturer was hit with three willful violations of OSHA standards. The agency says the employer did not implement safety precautions before assigning an employee to work in confined spaces, failed to test the confined space before letting employees enter, and did not properly control exposure to MEK. The employer was also cited for 10 serious violations with total penalties of $224,000.

The package of violations was significant enough to earn the employer a spot on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) list. Under the SVEP, OSHA can inspect any of an employer’s facilities if the agency has reason to believe similar hazards may be present.

The contractor was cited for failing to have a competent person regularly inspect material and equipment.

Learn how to protect yourself and your employees when working in confined spaces:

Compliance curriculum: Confined spaces

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