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February 15, 2021
OSHA fines rail car servicer $419,347

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Trinity Rail and Maintenance Services Inc. for 11 serious and 2 willful violations after 2 workers sent into a natural gasoline tank car died from inhaling toxic fumes. The agency is seeking $419,347 in proposed penalties.

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The Dallas-based Trinity Rail Maintenance and Services failed to follow permit-required confined space entry procedures at its Hugo, Oklahoma, facility before sending two employees to clean a rail car, according to OSHA, and did not ventilate the space and monitor hazards inside the confined space.

The employees eventually were recovered and later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

“Work inside confined spaces is a dangerous job and federal workplace safety standards must be followed to avoid disaster,” OSHA Oklahoma City Area Director Steven A. Kirby said in an agency statement.  

OSHA cited the employer for a violation of the General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970), which requires employers to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards likely to cause injury or death. The agency also cited Trinity Rail Maintenance and Services for violations of the respiratory protection standard in addition to violations of the permit-required confined space entry standard.

The two willful, serious violations of the permit-required confined space standard included failing to test conditions in a confined space before allowing employees to enter a space where they will be exposed to a hazardous atmosphere and failing the prepare an entry permit, resulting in employees’ exposures to corn oil, methanol, and natural gasoline respiratory hazards inside tank cars.

Serious violations at the Hugo facility cited by the agency included:

  • A serious violation of Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act for failing to control ignition sources where flammable materials were used to clean rail tank cars, creating explosion and fire hazards;
  • A serious violation of the respiratory protection standard for allowing employees to wear tight-fitting facepiece respirators without performing annual fit testing;
  • Failing to perform quantitative respirator fit-testing procedures;
  • Failing to reevaluate respirator effectiveness when tank cars had previously contained different chemicals, commodities, or products;
  • Failing to identify and evaluate exposures for each respiratory hazard in the workplace—the employer did not consider the atmosphere in the rail tank car to be immediately dangerous to life or health;
  • Failing to evaluate hazards before allowing employees to enter a permit-required confined space;
  • Failing to perform a daily test to ensure atmospheric testing equipment was maintained and its accuracy was verified;
  • Failing to use non-spark-producing tools during the cleaning process inside tanks that had contained combustible or flammable commodities;
  • Failing to assign an attendant outside a permit-required confined space;
  • Failing to provide initial, follow-up, or refresher training for permit-required confined space entry operations when employees were exposed to a new hazard;
  • Failing to ensure employees knew or were trained for the hazards to which they would be exposed before entering tank cars;
  • Failing to ensure an attendant was informed of hazards of a confined space and knew the mode, signs and symptoms, and consequences of exposures inside tank cars;
  • Failing to ensure all entry supervisors were informed of hazards of confined spaces and knew the mode, signs and symptoms, and consequences of exposures inside tank cars;
  • Failing to ensure entry supervisors verified all tests were performed before allowing employees to enter a permit-required confined space;
  • Failing to ensure rescue teams were trained and proficient in rescuing entrants in a confined space;
  • Failing to ensure rescue teams performed simulated rescue operations at least once every 12 months;
  • Failing to use entrant retrieval systems or methods to facilitate nonentry rescue; and
  • Failing to use a chest or full-body harness for each entrant with a retrieval line attached at the center of each entrant’s back.

“As is the case here, failing to follow OSHA standards can be the difference between life and death,” Kirby said.

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