Fatal Fall for Furnace Operator

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: February 4th, 2014
Topics: Airborne Contaminants | Confined Spaces | Fall Protection |

furnace worker fatality confined space entry permit


orrance Castings Inc. has been cited for 10 safety violations by OSHA after a furnace worker was fatally injured at the La Crosse-based iron foundry while working alone in a permit-required confined space while conducting maintenance on July 29, 2013.

The 30-year-old male had been working at the foundry for about two years. He fell into an electrical inductive furnace that he was trying to reline.

“Torrance Castings has a responsibility to protect workers from known hazards. In this case, OSHA’s permit-required confined space standards explain how to keep workers safe when entering these spaces,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s area director in Madison. “Preventable deaths are completely unacceptable, and employers are responsible for ensuring that they do not happen at their facilities.”

Nine serious violations were issued. Four violations involve OSHA’s permit-required confined space program regulations. A permit-required confined space is a space that has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

The company was cited for failing to:

  • Implement a written confined space permit program and develop procedures and practices to allow safe entry for electric inductive furnaces.
  • Prepare an entry permit prior to entry into the inductive furnace.
  • Provide an attendant outside the permit space for the duration of the entry operation.

Other violations include:

  • Failing to ensure employees pouring metal and shifting weights were wearing arm protection and using face shields.
  • Failing to include the health effects of silica, copper and other hazardous materials in employee training programs.
  • Failing to have a workbench for the stand grinder.
  • Allowing a worker to clean equipment suspended by a half-ton chain hoist.
  • Using electrical equipment in the powdered paint room not rated for such use.

An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

One other-than-serious violation was cited for failing to assess employee exposure to silica, copper, polyester triglycidyl isocyanurate powder, and coal tar pitch volatiles. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Because of this investigation, OSHA has proposed penalties of $47,700.

Torrance Casting Inc. has been inspected three previous times since 2000, resulting in the issuance of 10 citations. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.