A composting facility in California is facing a hefty fine from the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but for the family of the victims of a construction accident, it may not be enough. Eladio Ramirez, 22 and his younger brother, Armando, 16, died while working in a storm drain at the Community Recycling & Resource Recovery, Inc. facility. The cause of death was inhalation of hydrogen sulfide gas.
OSHA inspected the facility and cited it for “failure to have an adequate confined-space program, including proper training, testing for atmospheric hazards and rescue procedures.” OSHA issued a $167,000 fine to Community Recycling and ordered operational changes.
“These young workers’ deaths were completely preventable,” said Regional OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “Hydrogen sulfide gas is a fatal and common byproduct of the composting process. Yet, Community Recycling and Recovery failed to have proper procedures in place—identification and posting of all confined space hazards, training workers and supervisors, testing for dangerous levels of gas and effective rescue procedures. These could have saved both workers, who were not trained or provided adequate protection.”
OSHA recently updated its hazardous materials standards, which force employers to identify and classify the danger levels of hazardous materials. Kern County officials voted in November 2011 to revoke the facility’s conditional operation use permit due to repeated conflicts with safety regulations.
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