Metal Processing Company Cited in Confined Spaces Accident

Santa Ana, CA – Cal/OSHA has cited Kittyhawk Inc. $73,105 for serious safety violations following a March 13, 2016 confined space accident in which a worker was asphyxiated. Cal/OSHA investigators found the Garden Grove-based metal processing company failed to comply with confined space regulations that resulted in the serious illness.

On March 13, a Kittyhawk supervisor sent an untrained production assistant into a pressure vessel furnace to perform maintenance on it. The assistant did not have an oxygen sensor with him when he descended into the unit, which is only 49 inches wide and 98 inches tall, and was filled with argon gas. Argon is a noble gas that is chemically inert under most conditions and is colorless, odorless, and much heavier than air.

When the worker was overcome by the argon gas and collapsed inside the unit, a second worker went in after him and became dizzy and lost consciousness. A third employee then took a nearby fan and blew fresh air into the confined space, which provided air to breathe. The first worker spent four days in a hospital receiving treatment for his illness, and the second employee was transported to the hospital and was treated and released.

Cal/OSHA cited Kittyhawk Inc. for nine safety violations including three serious, three serious accident-related and three general in nature  These violations involved Kittyhawk’s failure to identify permit-required confined spaces, train the employees to safely perform their work in these confined spaces, failure to monitor the atmospheric conditions in a confined space during maintenance, and failure to develop effective rescue and emergency procedures for rescuing endangered employees from confined spaces.

Cal/OSHA first adopted confined space regulations in 1978 in order to prevent fatalities and serious injuries. California defines a permit-required confined space as one that has limited entry and exit openings, is not designed for continuous worker occupancy and has one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Has a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere including too little or too much oxygen, and/or presence of toxic gases.
  • Has a material that can engulf an employee, such as grain, sand or sugar.
  • Has an internal layout (such as floors that slope downwards) that can trap or asphyxiate a worker.
  • Has any other serious safety or health hazard, such as machinery with moving parts, sources of electrical shocks, burning or drowning hazards.