A federal agency has cited Lakehead Blacktop & Materials for safety violations in the deaths last fall of four men who were overcome by toxic fumes after going in a manhole at the company’s landfill.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the Superior company $4,200 and imposed a March 19 deadline for Lakehead to comply with a series of safety corrections.
The OSHA citation, issued Jan. 31, was obtained by the Duluth News Tribune through a Freedom of Information Act request. Because Lakehead didn’t contest OSHA’s findings within 15 business days, the company must accept the results and make the corrections by the deadline.
The accident Nov. 1 developed after 44-year-old Joe Kimmes III descended through a landfill manhole to perform repairs. He was quickly overcome by hydrogen sulfide fumes, Douglas County Medical Examiner Darrell Witt said at the time.
Scott Kimmes, 40, noticed his brother gasping for air and went down to help but was overcome, Witt said. Also overcome trying to help were Harold Tim Olson, 47, an employee at the landfill, and Paul Cossalter, a 41-year-old contractor who urged someone to call 911 before going into the manhole, Witt said.
Lakehead was faulted by OSHA for failing to identify work areas that should have been labeled with warnings, and also for failing to provide training and air-monitoring equipment to help identify potentially dangerous conditions.
OSHA also cited the company for failing to have a system in place to ensure that equipment being serviced couldn’t be powered up accidentally.
Mark Hysell, an OSHA area director based in Eau Claire, said his agency considered a number of factors in deciding to impose a fine. He noted that Lakehead had no history of prior violations, but said there was evidence that the company should have known of federal requirements pertaining to work in and around enclosed spaces.
A call by The Associated Press to a number listed for the company rang unanswered and did not go to voicemail
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