7: Plumbers Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide – Employers Face Heavy Penalties

Source: Rafael Ben-Ari - 123RF

Foster City—Cal/OSHA has cited two employers for serious accident-related health and safety violations after workers were poisoned by carbon monoxide while in a confined space at San Francisco International Airport. 

Two plumbers from Gladiator Rooter & Plumbing were working in a crawl space replacing underground sewer pipes for airline caterer Gate Gourmet, Inc. on December 22, 2018.

The plumbers were using a gasoline-powered saw to cut through concrete when they were overcome by carbon monoxide gas emitted from the equipment, causing one of the workers to lose consciousness. Emergency crews assisted the workers, one of whom was hospitalized for two days.

Cal/OSHA Deputy Chief of Enforcement, Debra Lee, said, “These workers were fortunate because performing work in confined spaces can be deadly, especially when oxygen levels are reduced or when deadly gases are present. “

Lee added, “Employers must identify and evaluate potential hazards before workers enter confined spaces so they can ensure workers are trained and a rescue plan is in place in case of emergency.”

Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that Gate Gourmet, Inc. did not inform Gladiator Rooter & Plumbing that the crawl space was a permit-required confined space, and did not provide information on the potential hazards posed by entering the space.

Cal/OSHA also found that Gladiator Rooter & Plumbing did not have a safety and health program and did not train workers. In addition, the employer did not develop a confined space program, take steps to mitigate the hazards and did not have a rescue plan.

Cal/OSHA cited Gladiator Rooter & Plumbing $50,850 for eight violations, including two serious accident-related, two serious, and four general in nature.

The serious accident-related violations were cited for the company’s failure to implement a permit-required confined space program and its failure to train its employees on working safely in confined spaces.

The serious violations were cited for the company’s failure to develop and implement a written permit space program and failure to obtain information about permit space hazard and provide that information to the workers entering the space.

Cal/OSHA cited Gate Gourmet $18,000 in proposed penalties for one serious accident-related violation for failing to communicate with Gladiator Rooter & Plumbing about confined space hazards and precautions.

A violation is classified as serious when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation, and violations are classified as accident-related when the injury, illness or fatality is caused by the violation.