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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited North East Linen for multiple alleged safety and health violations after a double fatality at the company's Linden, N.J., facility.
OSHA initiated its investigation on December 1, 2007, following the fatal accident. Two employees, who were cleaning a wastewater tank, were discovered at the bottom of the tank, which was oxygen-deficient and contained hazardous chemicals. The investigation resulted in one willful, 12 serious and two other-than-serious violations.
"North East Linen did not take the appropriate steps to train its employees about potential hazards and to ensure its employees did not enter the waste water tank, which led to this tragedy," says Robert D. Kulick, director of OSHA's Avenel, N.J., area office.
The company was cited for a willful violation for failing to provide hazard communication training. The serious citations include North East Linen's failure to provide adequate means of egress; to take effective measures to prevent employees from entering the wastewater tank; to lock out, or prevent accidental start-up of, equipment; to determine the presence and quantity of asbestos-containing material and not labeling the material; to close unused openings on an electrical panel; and to provide other necessary training.
"This horrible tragedy underscores the need for all employers to implement effective safety and health management systems," said Louis Ricca Jr., acting administrator for OSHA's New York region. "It also reinforces the need for employers to provide their employees with appropriate training, direction, personal protective equipment and engineering controls, particularly when working in and around confined spaces."
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA is proposing a total of $79,250 in fines for the combined violations.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.