Oregon OSHA Fines Portland Environmental Company for Serious Violations

OREGON OSHA CITES PORTLAND ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES COMPANY FOR MULTIPLE VIOLATIONS OF CONFINED SPACE SAFETY RULES

News Release from Oregon Dept. of Consumer & Business Services
January 9th, 2024

Salem – The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) has fined a Portland  environmental and emergency services company $118,800 for violating job safety standards designed to protect workers from the potentially deadly hazards of confined spaces.

The division cited River City Environmental Inc. following an inspection of an incident reported to it by Portland Fire & Rescue.

A confined space is one that meets all the following conditions:

  • It is large enough and so configured that an employee can fully enter the space and perform work.
  • It has limited or restricted means for entry, exit, or both.
  • It is not designed for continuous human occupancy.

Oregon OSHA’s inspection of the July 14, 2023, incident found that two members of a four-person crew employed by River City Environmental became unconscious due to the atmospheric conditions inside a stormwater sewer system. The crew had been tasked with working on filters inside the system located at a brewing company.

The work involved entering a maintenance hole to clean, retrofit, and remove filters used to sift stormwater runoff from a large loading-dock operation. The stormwater sewer system contained immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) oxygen levels of 12.5 percent. For perspective: The typical percentage of oxygen in air is 20.9 percent, while the minimum allowed for entry into spaces without supplied air or ventilation is 19.5 percent. The situation left two employees unconscious and in need of emergency medical help. Portland Fire & Rescue responded, deploying a team to help rescue the employees from the confined space.

Oregon OSHA cited River City Environmental for the following serious violations:

  • Not ensuring employees who were authorized to complete permit confined space work were supervised in the practices and processes used to safely enter such spaces. Total proposed penalty: $9,450
  • Not identifying the atmospheric and physical hazards that made the space a permit confined space. Total proposed penalty: $12,150
  • Not ensuring the written confined space program included instructions on equipment use and maintenance, and the procedures necessary for concluding the entry and canceling the permit after entry operations are completed. Total proposed penalty: $12,150
  • Not ensuring the procedures for issuing and completing an entry permit were implemented, including evaluating the hazards of the space and of the work to be performed, and identifying safe entry conditions. Total proposed penalty: $12,150
  • Not performing initial testing for atmospheric hazards before entry.
  • Not ensuring continuous monitoring was completed during entry to confirm safe conditions for entry.

Total proposed penalty for the above two violations: $12,150

  • Not ensuring employees were equipped with air testing and monitoring equipment.
  • Not ensuring employees were equipped with ventilation equipment.
  • Not ensuring employees were equipped with rescue and emergency equipment.

Total proposed penalty for the above three violations: $12,150

  • Not following the manufacturer’s instructions for testing and maintaining air monitors. Total proposed penalty: $12,150
  • Not providing information to employees entering the space about the hazards inside it or about the signs, symptoms, and consequences of those hazards.
  • Not providing information to attendants – those who monitor employees entering the space – about the hazards inside it or about the signs, symptoms, and consequences of those hazards.
  • Not providing information to supervisors of the entry about the hazards inside the space or about the signs, symptoms, and consequences of those hazards.

Total proposed penalty for the above three violations: $12,150

  • Not implementing procedures to remove entrants if an emergency occurs or if they are unable to remove themselves from danger. Total proposed penalty: $12,150
  • Not ensuring all employees assigned to perform confined space entries were trained or currently certified in basic first aid and CPR. Total proposed penalty: $12,150.

“Confined space work does not allow for carelessness. Employers must anticipate the risks, focus on thoroughness, and ensure that they protect their employees who enter confined spaces,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Renée Stapleton. “Employees have a right to work safely, and employers must do the right thing.”

More information about confined spaces is available on Oregon OSHA’s A-to-Z topic page.

Employers have 30 calendar days after receiving a citation to file an appeal.

Employers are encouraged to use free resources – available now from Oregon OSHA and involving no fault, no citations, and no penalties – for help protecting their employees:

Consultation services – Provides free help with safety and health programs, including how to control and eliminate hazards, and hands-on training

Technical staff – Helps employers understand requirements and how to apply them to their worksites

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, go to osha.oregon.gov.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.oregon.gov/dcbs/.