US Department of Labor fines Texas company $399k

Two employees of a US tank cleaning company suffered injuries when exposed to hydrogen sulphide – a flammable, highly toxic colourless gas – that was present during the cleaning process ­­of a tanker truck on 25 April 2023, in Beaumont, Texas.

Two municipal firefighters responding to the scene also suffered injuries from the gas.

Federal investigators determined the employer – Trimac Transportation Inc, which operates as National Tank Services – did not provide adequate respiratory protection, resulting in two employees being transported to hospital, one of them being hospitalised due to the exposure. The first responders were treated on the scene.

Investigators with the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found National Tank Services did not evaluate the worksite for possible respiratory hazards like the one that sickened the workers, and did not monitor employees for exposure to other substances.

The company also failed to provide workers with appropriate respirators, manage a required respiratory protection programme to provide workers with medical evaluations prior to respirator use and conduct respiratory fit testing.

OSHA proposed penalties of US$399,349 (€377k) to the company after citing nine health violations, including two wilful, three repeat and four serious.

“Exposure to toxic gases is a known health risk when cleaning tanks and trailers. National Tank Services must cease their lax approach to health and safety standards and immediately implement respiratory protection requirements, testing and other safety measures to prevent worker’s exposure to these deadly gases,” said OSHA area director Mark Briggs in Houston.

“The company’s repeated violations of federal and industry-recognised safety and health standards resulted in the hospitalisation of one employee and injuries to another worker and first responders on the scene. This will not be tolerated.”

Investigators also found National Tank Services again failed to provide protective clothing, eye, face and hand protection, did not label containers and failed to provide injury and illness logs to OSHA within four business hours, violations previously cited in the past five years at their facilities in Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.

Workers were also exposed to fall hazards because the company failed to install mid-rails on the stairway and on the catwalk platform guardrail system.

A subsidiary of Trimac Transportation of Canada, National Tank Services operates 30 maintenance and tank cleaning locations across North America.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of 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.