Because Reynolds Nationwide did not test the atmosphere and properly ventilate the air in food transport tankers before allowing workers to enter, those workers risked potentially lethal suffocation caused by dangerous fumes, according to OSHA, which has levied $179,000 in fines against the company.
Acting on an employee complaint, OSHA initiated an investigation on Aug. 6, 2014, at the company’s London, Ohio tank-cleaning facility. The agency issued two willful and six serious safety violations involving permit-required confined spaces and fall hazards.
"Fumes can reach dangerous levels in confined spaces, and that puts workers in real and immediate danger," said Deborah Zubaty, OSHA's area director in Columbus. "Reynolds Nationwide failed to implement training and procedures to protect workers entering these tanks, and that is unacceptable."
OSHA's investigation found that Reynolds did not ventilate the tankers to eliminate and control atmospheric hazards and failed to test and monitor the atmospheric conditions in the tankers before allowing workers to enter and clean them. Employees were also exposed to fall hazards of nearly 11 feet while cleaning the tankers, resulting in the issuance of the two willful violations.
OSHA regulations require that the atmosphere in a confined space must be tested for oxygen, combustible gases, toxic gases and vapors. Steps must also be taken to ensure the atmospheric conditions are safe before a worker enters the space. A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, such as cleaning a food transport tanker, but it has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy.
The agency determined that Reynolds Nationwide failed to develop a confined space entry permit program to include training workers on hazards, procedures for summoning emergency services and providing monitors when an employee entered a confined space. Electrical safety violations were also noted. A total of six serious citations were issued for these violations.
Exposure to harmful substances and environments accounted for 330 fatal occupational injuries in the United States in 2013.
Based in San Antonio, Reynolds Nationwide employs about 750 workers corporatewide and 10 at the London location.