- An OSHA investigation has determined that an Arkansas contractor failed to test oxygen levels in a confined space before two workers entered a sewer and later died due to a lack of oxygen.
- OSHA fined Texarkana, Arkansas-based Belt Construction $287,150 on Wednesday in penalties for the incident, which took place June 14 in Edmund, Oklahoma.
- An employee of the contractor climbed into a newly installed sewer manhole and later lost consciousness. A second employee followed in an attempt to rescue the first worker. Both workers — identified by Fox 25 as Alejandro Cabrera, 29, and Emilio Alonzo, 28 — lost consciousness and later died.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2020 that 1,030 workers died in confined space incidents from 2011 to 2018, Of those, 61 died in sewers, manholes and storm drains.
Employers must test confined spaces in pre-entry planning to find out if ventilation is needed, OSHA said. Belt Construction allegedly also failed to provide rescue equipment and training for workers on confined entry procedures. It also didn’t obtain permits required by federal law, OSHA said.
Belt Construction did not respond to Construction Dive’s request for comment. The family-owned contractor provides concrete and tunneling work and wastewater pipe construction work in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, according to its website.
The citation resulted in six serious and two willful violations. Belt Construction has 15 business days to comply or contest the findings. The contractor has had no other violations in the last five years, according to a search of the OSHA database.