Tunneling Fatality and Safety Violations Brings Down $161,000 in Fines

Failure to provide rescue services and monitoring during tunneling operations and training for its employees could cost a company $161,000 in proposed penalties, and, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), already cost one employee his life.

OSHA's investigation of Du-Mor Enterprises in San Antonio began Dec. 18, 2001, when a worker, who became unresponsive while working inside a 24-inch diameter pipe tunneled 220 feet into the ground, was killed. Du-Mor Enterprises is a trenching, boring, and tunneling contractor that employs about 75 workers.

OSHA investigators cited the company for three alleged willful violations for failing to train employees in tunneling operation precautions, failing to provide rescue for welders and other workers and failing to have a competent person monitoring the tunnel for oxygen and air contaminants. A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the OSH Act and regulations.

Four alleged serious violations were issued for failing to train employees in the hazards of welding chemicals, failing to inspect the jobsite regularly, failing to ensure that welders and other workers were provided adequate ventilation and failing to properly install a trench shield around a boring pit. A serious violation is one that could cause death or serious physical harm to employees and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the area director, or to contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review commission.

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