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Investigation into Ohio City Worker Fatality Leads to Four Citations

On May 7, 2010, a public works employee had been directed to inspect and clean a sewer line located on Yankee Road in Middleton, Ohio. The 31-year-old worker died from nitrogen fumes inhaled during a workplace accident on the site. In an attempt to rescue the young worker, three firefighters were injured. The fatality prompted the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s Public Employees Risk Reduction Standards Department to conduct a full investigation into the incident. The investigation spanned over a nearly six month period.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation released the investigation report on Monday, November 1, 2010. According to the report, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation found that the City of Middleton had committed three serious violations and one minor violation.

The three serious violations were found in the “determination of permit required confined spaces, the city’s training program for permit-required confined spaces, and its evaluation of a rescuer’s ability to respond to an emergency in a proficient and timely manner.” The failure to adequately maintain work-related injuries and illnesses logs led to the minor violation.

Although the violations were not found to be the cause of the worker’s death, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation cited the city for the violations. The city has until April 27th to correct the issues that led to the citations. The city reported that it plans to hire an independent consult to complete the process.

The city alleged that it did keep accurate records of workplace injuries and illnesses, but that the forms were not approved by the bureau. The city also claimed that they had competent rescue procedures, but that rescue in a confined space is not always easy. “We want to be compliant to make sure the workplace is as safe as it can be,” the city law director reported.

Source: Dayton Daily News “Exclusive: Sewer fatality report issued” Jessica Heffner 11/5/10

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