The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Tactical Cleaning Company in Commerce City, Colo., for 12 alleged serious violations at its tank cleaning facility for exposing a worker to a flash fire while working in a confined space with flammable materials. The worker sustained significant burns and died later from his injuries.

"The dangers of entering confined spaces that contain flammable vapors are well known to this industry," said Greg Baxter, OSHA's regional administrator in Denver. "For the safety of all their workers, employers must be vigilant when workers enter confined spaces, and take effective and specific protective action."

OSHA's April inspection found that the employer was not implementing a comprehensive permit-required confined space program while workers entered confined spaces to perform tank cleaning activities. As a result of these conditions, OSHA has cited the company for failure to follow permit-required confined space procedures; test conditions in confined space before entry; complete entry permits properly; evaluate the confined space; provide employees with adequate training; evaluate rescue services for employees entering confined spaces; and provide adequate personal protective equipment; as well as for using improper electrical equipment in flammable atmospheres. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

"Tactical Cleaning is required, like all employers who have employees entering confined spaces, to have an effective safety and health management system that identifies all hazards involved in a confined space entry," said Herb Gibson, OSHA's Denver area office director. "All safety and health aspects of confined space entries must be thoroughly evaluated prior to entry."

The company was fined a penalty of $39,000 and has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with the OSHA area director or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.