The alleged failure of three Hugo, Okla., companies to train employees and give them adequate gear for working inside confined spaces with unsafe air has resulted in proposed penalties totaling $427,500 from OSHA.

OSHA's Oklahoma City office began its investigation of R Repair Kar, Seaboard Container Cleaning and 1st Odyssey Group on Dec. 10 following complaints it received that employees were entering and performing work inside railcars without adequate respiratory equipment. Several employees have suffered long-term illnesses due to the exposure.

R Repair Kar, a company that repairs railcar tanks and boxcars, filed for Chapter 11. Seaboard Container Cleaning, Inc. assumed R Repair Kar's Hugo-based facility in April. The 1st Odyssey Group provides personnel services including on-site safety and health audits to R Repair Kar. Each company was cited with the same three alleged willful and nine alleged serious violations with a fine of 142,500.

"All three companies had a hand in allowing the unsafe working conditions to continue," said James Brown, OSHA area director in Oklahoma City. "However, the Odyssey Group had the authority to put an immediate stop to this by removing its personnel from the hazards."

Three alleged willful violations were for failing to provide fall protection, failing to develop and implement an adequate respiratory protection program and failing to evaluate and implement permit required confined spaces as required by the OSHA regulations.