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OSHA sites energy company for safety violations after worker dies

An energy service provider based in Freeport, Texas, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 29 serious violations and three other-than-serious violations following an investigation that took place after a worker was killed at the facility's tank wash operation in February.

The proposed penalties against Enterprise Products Transportation Co. amount to $160,000. The company will be given 15 days to comply, request an informal conference or to contest the unsafe work environment penalties.

OSHA's Houston South Area Office began the inspection of the company's facility on South Gulf Boulevard on February 9 of this year after being notified of the fatal accident. The accident involved a worker who was found unresponsive inside a tank trailer that was about to be washed. A coworker removed the unresponsive worker from the tank, but he later died at a local hospital.

According to OHSA's investigation, the serious violations were the result of the company failing to meet many safety standards required by law, including failing to install and maintain fall protection equipment, failing to provide the necessary respiratory protection for employees performing tank wash work, failing to provide proper training and failing to make sure all chemicals were safely stored.

A serious violation is cited when there is "substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known," OSHA reported. The three other-than-serious violations were for safety breaches that are directly related to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Under federal law and the state laws of Texas, workers do not have to put up with unsafe working environments. Employers and employees with questions about workplace safety and health standards are encouraged to contact OSHA's Houston South office at 281-286-0583 or its Houston North office at 281-591-2438.

The family of the worker who was killed at Enterprise Products Transportation Co. could likely bring a wrongful death claim against the company, especially after it appears that the death was directly or indirectly related to the company's health and safety violations.

Source: OSHA Regional News Release, "US Department of Labor's OSHA cites Enterprise Products Transportation in Freeport, Texas, following worker fatality," Aug. 4, 2011.

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