MIAMI – The U.S. Department of Labor has found that a Miami excavation contractor with a history of federal workplace safety violations could have prevented the death of a 48-year-old diver – who drowned while removing debris in a canal in 8 feet of murky water – by having required rescue procedures in place.

The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Downrite Engineering Corp. for 18 serious violations after its investigation into the January 2023 incident. The agency has proposed $258,935 in penalties.

Since 2018, OSHA has cited Downrite Engineering for various safety violations, including in 2019 for failing to provide an injured worker with prompt medical attention and not having medical services and first aid readily available.

“Our investigation found Downrite Engineering Corp. did not follow required standards to protect workers who conduct commercial diving activities,” explained OSHA Area Office Director Condell Eastmond in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “This company’s failures before, during and after this tragedy are inexcusable and now this diver’s family, friends and co-workers are left to grieve their terrible loss.”

Specifically, OSHA determined the company failed to do the following:

Train dive teams in equipment use, techniques and emergency procedures required to perform underwater tasks safely, and to make sure all dive team members had CPR training.
Assess water conditions before diving and require an experienced dive team member to supervise dredging operations in a canal with limited visibility.
Provide workers with a safe practices manual when performing underwater diving and maintain a first aid kit, emergency aid list, resuscitator equipment and emergency procedures.
Brief workers on basic diving procedures and environmental conditions.
Assess the safety and health aspects of the diving mode, the underwater conditions or emergency procedures.
Provide employees with safety harnesses to assist an injured diver from the water, a two-way communication system, a marked umbilical in 10-foot increments, a non-return valve on the surfaced-supplied air, a life jacket or buoyant work vest and a lifesaving skiff.
Keep air compressor intakes away from areas containing exhaust or contaminants.
Record equipment modifications, tests, calibrations, or maintenance service.
Headquartered in Miami, Downrite Engineering Corp. excavates lakes and installs storm drainage systems among its heavy equipment operations and construction activities. The company employs more than 400 people.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Visit OSHA’s website for information on commercial diving safety and standards. Employers can also contact the agency about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and  its free help for complying with OSHA standards.

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