US Labor Department cites Silver Creek plumbing contractor after 34-year-old employee’s fatal fall, exposure to hydrogen sulfide

K&D Plumbing Inc. failed to implement a written room access authorization program prior to the incident

ROME, GA – A U.S. Department of Labor investigation found that a Silver Creek plumbing contractor was able to prevent a 34-year-old employee's fatal fall at a construction site in Rome in June 2023 by following required safety procedures.

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 at the end of a 60-foot-long trench, a worker entered a shaft. A short time later, the worker fell approximately 20 feet where he succumbed to his injuries resulting from the fall and subsequent exposure to high atmospheric concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas.

The Rome Fire Department tested the air in the shaft using a gas detector 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 and health.

OSHA accused the employer of willfully failing to develop and implement a permit-required confined space access programincluding testing and ventilation of the room, before employees are allowed access to a shaft. The agency also cited K&D with six serious violations for failing to provide ladders or other safe means of egress from the 6-foot-deep trench and protections or controls for water accumulation within the trench.

In addition, the employer failed to have a competent person inspect the trench before workers entered it and failed to ensure that the excavated earth and uninstalled piping were stored at least 60 cm from the edge of the trench so that they would not spill into the trench roll back and the workers could go on strike.

The agency suggested Fine of $184,387.

“K&D Plumbing’s failure to comply with industry guidelines resulted in preventable deaths,, said Jeffery Stawowy, OSHA Atlanta-West area office chief. “Implementing safety controls and training employees to recognize and avoid hazards is the responsibility of every employer.”

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

OSHA announced increased statewide enforcement and additional oversight to support its statewide priority program to prevent injuries associated with trenching operations and excavation collapses. The agency's Trenching and excavation The website provides information on trenching hazards and solutions, including: a video with tips for safe excavations. Among the most dangerous hazards in the industry was unsafe trenching and excavation work, where 40 construction workers suffered fatal injuries in 2022.

Employers can contact the agency about OSHA's compliance support resources and their free help to comply with OSHA standards.

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