Safety and OSHA News

Almost $1 million in OSHA fines for deadly confined space blast

OSHA has issued $963,000 in fines to a cleaning services company in connection with the deaths of two of its employees inside a railcar in April. 

The air inside the car being cleaned by the two Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services (NRCS) employees was at a serious risk of explosion on April 14, 2015.

OSHA says the company knew that because it had tested the air inside the car, but it sent Dallas Foulk, 40, and Adrian LaPour, 44, inside to clean it anyway.

The explosion that resulted blew the railcar’s escape ladder off and killed both men, trapping one inside and hurling the other off the top of the car. A third employee was injured.

OSHA issued 33 citations to the company: 7 egregious willful, 3 willful, 2 repeat, 20 serious and 1 other-than-serious. NRCS is now in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

The violations include failure to:

  • monitor air quality properly in confined spaces as required
  • fit-test employees required to use respirators in railcars
  • train workers on hazardous materials in use
  • establish a hazardous waste program to include training, proper handling and removal
  • label containers for chemical hazards
  • establish a hearing conservation program
  • provide first aid and fire extinguisher training
  • remove damaged powered industrial vehicles from use
  • fix numerous electrical safety hazards, and
  • train workers to safely operate powered industrial vehicles (a violation the company was cited for in 2013).

NRCS and Omaha Transloading LLC (a company that shares a majority owner) have had several previous OSHA inspections.

Federal authorities are investigating two whistleblower complaints against NRCS.

EPA is also investigating allegations that the company improperly disposed of hazardous waste.

The company provides workers who clean railcars that contain herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, used oil, asphalt, gasoline and ethanol.

NRCS has 15 days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or appeal the violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The company has released a statement regarding the OSHA fines:

Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services (“NRCS”) received citations from the Department of Labor and OSHA. NRCS has fully cooperated with OSHA’s investigation as a result of this tragedy and is very disappointed with OSHA’s handling of this investigation. NRCS adamantly denies the allegations by OSHA that NRCS intentionally put any of its employees in harm’s way. The violations alleged by OSHA, as well as the 2013 investigation which OSHA officials have referenced, have no causal connection to the explosion. In the six months since this accident, OSHA inspectors have refused to enter into the railcar to ascertain the direct cause of the explosion. NRCS continues its internal investigation into the actual cause of this tragic accident. NRCS is determined to get to the root cause of this accident because the families and employees of NRCS have the right to know. NRCS will vigorously defend against these allegations because the facts simply do not support them.

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