OSHA proposes fines of $133,900
OMAHA, Nebraska – A worker at Watco Investments LLC reported suffering from respiratory inflammation after performing welding work inside a rail car in Omaha. The company, operating as Watco Companies Inc., has been cited by OSHA for three repeat and three serious safety violations, many involving confined space safety regulations. Proposed fines total $133,900 for the company, which specializes in rail car repairs.
“Confined spaces can put workers at risk for serious injury and illness. These spaces often have poor air quality and other serious hazards,” said Bonita Winingham, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “Employers, such as Watco Companies, have a responsibility to train workers in the unique dangers of confined space entry and to ensure spaces are safe for the work tasks performed.”
OSHA initiated the March 27, 2014, inspection after receiving a report of the illness from the Nebraska Department of Labor Workers’ Compensation Division. OSHA has a Local Emphasis Program on Workers’ Compensation to reduce injuries and illnesses in private industry within Nebraska. The inspection found that Watco Companies allowed employees to enter rail cars to perform repair tasks, including welding, without implementing procedures required under OSHA’s permit-required confined space regulations. A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy, such as an enclosed rail car.
OSHA found three repeat violations for failure to implement training, procedures and practices for safe entry into these spaces, including the company’s failure to evaluate for hazards, and to provide workers with communication devices or implement measures to prevent unauthorized entry.
OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer was previously cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Watco Companies was previously cited for these violations in 2013 in Texas.
Serious violations were cited for failure to provide administrative and engineering controls to reduce damaging noise exposure, electrical hazards and lack of atmospheric controls in confined spaces. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exits.
Watco Companies, a transportation company based in Pittsburg, Kansas, provides mechanical, transportation, terminal and port service solutions for customers throughout North America and Australia. Watco Companies employs about 4,500 workers nationwide and 30 in Omaha.
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