Cal/OSHA has issued 11 citations to a company in the Los Angeles area in connection with the death of one employee and serious injuries to two others who tried to rescue their co-worker.
Baxter Healthcare Corp. dba Baxter Bioscience faces $371,250 in fines for the citations — one classified as general, ten as serious, four of which were also categorized as willful.
On Jan. 21, 2011, Baxter technician Henry Astilla, 33, collapsed when he entered a seven foot deep tank in which nitrogen gas was being used as part of a production process. Oxygen in the tank had been displaced by the nitrogen. Cal/OSHA says Baxter didn’t test the atmosphere in the tank.
When Astilla was discovered, a supervisor ordered two other employees to enter the tank and retrieve him again without testing the atmosphere or providing proper protective equipment, according to Cal/OSHA.
Astilla died, and the two employees sent to rescue him were seriously injured. One remains hospitalized since the incident.
“When confined space operations are not properly planned,” said Cal/OSHA chief Ellen Widess, “it is unfortunately common for other employees to be injured or killed while attempting impromptu rescue of the initial victim.”
It’s a good reminder for workers: Don’t attempt a rescue in a hazardous situation if you haven’t been trained to do so.
Cal/OSHA says Baxter’s confined space program failed to comply with all requirements, including appropriate atmospheric testing, protective equipment, and rescue equipment and procedures.
The company has 15 business days to decide whether to contest or pay the fines.