ROME, GA – A Silver Creek plumbing contractor could have prevented a 34-year-old employee’s June 2023 fatal fall at a Rome work site by following required safety procedures, a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found.Investigators with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration learned that a three-person work crew from K&D Plumbing Inc. was replacing a sewer line at Armuchee High School when they encountered a blockage in a pipe. To clear the blockage near the end of a 60-foot-long trench, one worker entered a manhole. A short time later, the worker fell about 20 feet, where they succumbed to injuries as a result of the fall and subsequent exposure to a high atmospheric concentration of hydrogen sulfide gas.The Rome Fire Department used a gas monitor to test the air inside the manhole and discovered the presence of hydrogen sulfide at 1,910 parts per million. The OSHA permissible exposure limit for hydrogen sulfide is 20 ppm. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, an environmental concentration of 100 ppm is considered immediately dangerous to life or health.OSHA cited the employer for willfully failing to develop and implement a permit-required confined space entry program, including testing and ventilating the space, before allowing employees to enter a manhole. The agency also cited K&D with six serious violations for not providing ladders or other safe means of egress from the 6-foot-deep trench and protections or controls for water accumulation inside the trench. In addition, the employer failed to have a competent person inspect the trench prior to workers entering and for not ensuring excavated soil and uninstalled piping were stored at least two feet from the trench edge, preventing them from rolling back inside the trench and striking workers. The agency proposed $184,387 in penalties. “K&D Plumbing’s failure to adhere to industry guidelines resulted in a preventable loss of life,” said OSHA Area Office Director Jeffery Stawowy in Atlanta-West. “Implementing safety controls and training employees to recognize and avoid hazards is every employer’s responsibility.”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. OSHA announced enhanced nationwide enforcement and additional oversight to support its national emphasis program on preventing injuries related to trenching and excavation collapses. The agency’s trenching and excavation webpage provides information on trenching hazards and solutions, including a video on tips for safe excavations. Among the industry’s most dangerous hazards, unsafe trenching and excavations led to 40 construction workers suffering fatal injuries in 2022.Employers can contact the agency about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and its free help for complying with OSHA standards. 

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