Minute Man Concrete Crush

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: February 6th, 2014
Topics: Confined Spaces | Contractors | Lockout Tagout | Machine Guarding | OSHA Inspections |

pneumatically powered discharge gate concrete work safety worker fatality


ukane Precast Inc., a precast concrete products manufacturer, has been cited for eight safety violations by OSHA after a temporary worker was fatally crushed at the company’s Aurora concrete batch plant while working alone in a permit-required confined space on July 20, 2013.

The 39-year-old Hispanic worker had entered a concrete mixer’s discharge mud hopper. He tried to free a pneumatically powered discharge gate stuck in the open position because of hardened concrete. The gate, which had not been isolated to prevent unintentional operation during maintenance activity, closed and crushed the worker. The worker was a long-term temporary employee provided by Minute Men Staffing Services. He was supervised solely by Dukane Precast Inc. The staffing service was not cited.

“It is unacceptable that Dukane Precast would allow a worker to enter a permit-required confined space to perform maintenance without ensuring that the space was isolated from hazards by following OSHA standards,” said Kathy Webb, OSHA’s area director in North Aurora. “Employers have a responsibility to protect all workers from known hazards at their facilities.”

Due to the willful violations found at the site, the company has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities or job sites.

OSHA issued four willful citations involving the worker’s entry into the concrete mixer’s discharge hopper, including failure to:

  • Inform employees of the existence, location and danger posed by the concrete mixer and discharge hopper.
  • Ensure the concrete mixer and discharge hopper were isolated from the hazards of the concrete mixing system and associated process materials prior to employee entry.
  • As part of the isolation process, ensure that the concrete mixer’s pneumatically powered discharge gate was deenergized and locked out prior to employee entry.
  • Prepare an entry permit and provide an attendant for employee entry.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for, or plain indifference to, employee safety and health.

Additionally, four serious citations were cited for lacking the following:

  • Standard guardrail or equivalent on an open-sided platform;
  • Ingress and egress equipment used for maintenance performed in the mixer’s discharge hopper;
  • Non-entry rescue retrieval system for maintenance performed in the mixer’s discharge hopper; and
  • Annual inspections of energy control procedures at the plant.

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.

OSHA has proposed fines of $303,900.

OSHA last inspected the company in February 2012. The inspection resulted in four violations, including one willful confined-space violation. The employer contested the alleged violations. The Chicago Regional Solicitor’s Office tried the resulting case at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Carol Baumerich of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in June 2013. The judge has not rendered a decision in the case.

In April 2013, OSHA announced an initiative to improve workplace safety and health for temporary workers. Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries shows fatal work injuries involving contractor worker fatalities, including temporary help service workers, accounted for 708-or 16 percent-of the 4,383 fatal work injuries reported in 2012. Additional details are available at http://bls.gov/iif/home.htm.

Dukane Precast Inc. is based in Naperville. 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.