OSHA has cited Phoenix Industrial Cleaning for 28 alleged serious safety violations following the death of Bernardo Martinez, 37, who fell from a ladder inside of a storage tank at Sunnyside Corp. in Wheeling, Ill. – a manufacturer of paint removers, paint thinners and wood care products – on Nov. 29, 2012. OSHA has proposed fines of $77,200.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office ruled in November 2012 that Martinez fell into the 50-ft. chamber, suffering multiple blunt injuries to the head as well as exposure to methylene chloride.
“No job should cost a person's life because of an employer's failure to properly protect and train workers,” said Diane Turek, OSHA’s area director for the Chicago North Area Office in Des Plaines. “Phoenix Industrial Cleaning failed in its responsibility to evaluate working conditions and provide proper respiratory and personal protective equipment to workers cleaning storage tanks containing hazardous chemicals.”
Eighteen of the alleged serious violations involve confined space entry requirements, such as failing to develop and implement a confined space entry program for workers cleaning chemical storage tanks; train workers on acceptable entry conditions; provide testing and monitoring equipment for atmospheric hazards; provide a means of communication between workers entering a confined space and the attendant; provide rescue emergency equipment and a retrieval system to facilitate a no-entry rescue; have proper entry-control permits; and determine the proficiency of rescue service available to perform emergency rescue for exposure to hazardous chemicals.
A confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and it is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. Confined space hazards are addressed in specific OSHA standards.
Five of the alleged serious violations that involve OSHA's respiratory protection standards include failing to evaluate the respiratory hazards present and select appropriate respiratory protection based on such hazards, provide a written respiratory protection program and train workers on such a program and conduct medical evaluations for workers required to use respiratory protection and proper fit-testing respiratory protection.
Additional serious violations involve OSHA's methylene chloride standard, such as failing to provide workers with information and training on the hazards associated with methylene chloride, assess exposure and provide effective protective garments. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Martinez was a foreman with Berkeley, Ill.- based Phoenix Industrial Cleaning, which performs industrial cleaning of cooking exhaust ventilation, tanks, silos and similar equipment at industrial and commercial work sites. “He meant a lot to our company and was loved and respected,” Jeff MacNerland, the general manager at Phoenix, told local newspaper Journal & Topics following Martinez's death. “He was one of our top producers and will be sorely missed.”
OSHA has conducted four previous inspections, two of which resulted in citations for violating standards on confined spaces. The last OSHA inspection was in 2001.
Phoenix Industrial Cleaning has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with Turek or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.