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Company cited for failure to maintain a safe working environment

Chemicals have reactive properties that are vital in many manufacturing processes. When employers fail to manage these chemical reactions properly, toxic gases and dangerous fumes may be formed. Exposure to such hazards can have catastrophic consequences to the health of workers and can also cause explosions and fires. California workers in various industries are exposed to toxic or dangerous fumes while also facing the added hazards of confined spaces and working at heights without fall protection. Failure to maintain a safe working environment may lead to a company being cited by authorities.

An enforcement case against a company in another state was recently announced following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Investigators found that Reynolds Nationwide workers were tasked with cleaning the inside of food transport tankers that exposed them to confined space hazards, along with the potential dangers of dangerous fumes. Accumulation of fumes in confined spaces can reach treacherous levels and may lead to a worker's death.

Confined spaces are spaces that are not designed for people but large enough for workers to enter for maintenance or other tasks. Such areas typically have limited means of exit and entry, and it is vital that air quality is monitored. OSHA found that the company failed to ventilate tankers prior to sending workers in, and also neglected to do atmospheric tests to prevent potential asphyxiation of workers. The company was also cited for failure to inform workers of the potential hazards they have to face.

Being exposed to such hazardous conditions that are caused by an employer's failure to maintain a safe working environment may result in severe personal injuries, and in many cases even the death of a worker. Workers' compensation is structured to provide financial assistance to injured employees, or to the surviving family of workers who died in workplace accidents. Such tragic consequences may lead to an inspection by OSHA. However, California companies that have been subjected to investigations and/or fines by OSHA may find a consultation with an experienced workers' compensation defense attorney to be beneficial. Moreover, there are occasions where an employer defense may be available to an injured worker claim filed with the workers' compensation system.

Source:, "OSHA Cites Reynolds Nationwide for Worker Exposures to Dangerous Fumes", Feb. 11, 2015

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