Company where worker was buried in sand faces $70,000 in fines
BY BILL BIRD email@example.com July 31, 2012 9:40PM
Updated: September 2, 2012 6:17AM
The owners of a Naperville concrete manufacturing company could be fined as much as $70,000 for their alleged mishandling of an incident last winter, in which an employee was partially buried in a silo containing 25 tons of sand.
Officials of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration have issued four safety violations against Dukane Precast Inc. That included a “willful violation” in “failing to immediately call emergency services when a worker became engulfed in a sand bin and suffered serious, crushing injuries,” said Kathy Webb, area director of OSHA’s office in North Aurora.
OSHA is charged with investigating incidents in which workers are killed or injured on the job.
Dukane Precast supervisor William Ortiz on Feb. 6 was buried up to his waist in a sand-filled bin at the company’s plant at 1805 High Grove Lane, in the Burlington Northern Industrial Park on Naperville’s far west side. Ortiz was hospitalized for his injuries but later recovered.
Webb on Tuesday said plant employees allegedly attempted to rescue Ortiz on their own for more than an hour that morning before summoning firefighters, police officers and other emergency service providers.
“Dukane Precast failed to enforce rules in place to protect workers,” Webb said. “Employers have a responsibility to immediately seek emergency assistance when a worker is injured on the job, and to prevent others from putting themselves at risk in a rescue operation.”
The willful violation was issued because company officials failed to immediately call rescuers when Ortiz became engulfed in sand after walking into the bin and onto the sand to level it, Webb said. A willful violation is defined as “one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health,” according to an OSHA news release.
Three “serious safety violations” were issued because of the company’s failure “to maintain a railing to protect workers from dangerous equipment, prevent unauthorized workers from entering a permit-required confined space” such as a sand bin, “and prepare entry permits prior to entering a confined space,” the release stated.
A serious violation occurs “when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known,” the release indicated.
Webb said company officials have 15 days to contest the violations and proposed $70,000 in fines. “They are coming in for an informal conference,” she said.
Scott Wehrli, Dukane Precast’s secretary-treasurer, confirmed company officials received the citations Thursday evening.
“At this point, we are looking forward to meeting with Director Webb, to discuss their findings and to show them ours,” Wehrli said Tuesday night.
“We want to make sure we’re all on the same page. There are things in the citations ... that we are not exactly sure about.”
Wehrli added the Naperville plant “has been open for 12 years, and we’ve never received a citation from OSHA. The plant has an exemplary safety record.”
Webb said OSHA has inspected the company 14 times since 1981, and has issued it a total of 25 violations.
Rescuers from 22 public safety agencies assisted members of the Naperville Fire Department in extricating Ortiz. The operation involved getting him into a harness and then using vacuum-type machinery from Naperville’s Department of Public Utilities to remove some of the sand surrounding him.
At least two truckloads of sand were taken out of the silo during the rescue operation, which lasted nearly four hours.