Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has issued citations and fined Industrial Container Services $215,250 for allegedly exposing workers to serious harm or even death in conjunction with an incident in which a worker became entangled in machinery while working in a confined space. L&I cited the company in 2013 for many of the same hazards, but the employer had not corrected them.
The company has appealed the citations and fine.
Industrial Container Services refurbishes metal drums and other industrial containers. The company operates a “drum shot-blaster unit,” a 24-foot long tunnel with a series of rotating shafts that move metal drums through as they’re being shot-blasted to remove paint and coatings.
L&I began its investigation in January 2015 after a worker was hospitalized after being injured while working inside a drum shot-blaster. The investigation found that workers regularly were entering the equipment to perform maintenance and repair without the necessary safety precautions.
Working inside a “confined space” area, such as the drum shot-blaster unit, without safety precautions can be deadly to workers and would-be rescuers. Confined space hazards include suffocation, toxic atmospheres, engulfment, entrapment and other dangerous conditions. These incidents are fully preventable.
When a confined space has hazardous characteristics that could harm workers, it’s considered a “permit-required” confined space. That means employers must control access to the area and use a permit system to prevent unauthorized entry. Anyone working in or around a permit-required confined space must be trained and there must be safety measures and rescue procedures in place.
L&I cited the company for seven “failure-to-abate” serious violations related to the confined space hazards, and for not ensuring that moving parts were de-energized to prevent workers from becoming caught in machinery. These violations were originally cited in October 2013 and had not been corrected. Each of the violations carries a penalty of $22,750.
L&I also cited the company for four “repeat-serious” violations and four “serious” violations related to confined-space procedures and energy control measures (lockout/tagout), with penalties ranging from $11,700 to $4,550.
As a result of these safety issues, Industrial Container Services has been identified as a severe violator and could be subject to increased scrutiny at all of its locations nationwide.
Penalty money collected in connection with a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.