via Wikimedia Commons
via Wikimedia Commons

State workplace regulators fined the operator of a Garden Grove metal processing company $73,100 for safety violations following an accident in which an untrained worker collapsed after breathing inert gas, it was announced Tuesday.

Kittyhawk Inc. was cited after Cal/OSHA determined that the company failed to comply with confined space regulations resulting in the serious illness of the worker, according to the agency.

On March 13, a Kittyhawk supervisor sent an untrained production assistant into an underground container to perform maintenance. The assistant did not have an oxygen sensor with him when he descended into the unit, which was filled with argon gas, according to Cal/OSHA.

Argon is a gas that is chemically inert under most conditions and is colorless, odorless, and much heavier than air.

When the worker was overcome and collapsed, a second worker went in after him and became dizzy and lost consciousness. A third employee then took a nearby fan and blew fresh air into the confined space, which provided air to breathe.

The first worker spent four days in a hospital receiving treatment for his illness, and the second employee was transported to a hospital and was treated and released, according to Cal/OSHA.

“Confined spaces can be deceptively dangerous,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Employers must take special precautions to evaluate and monitor the hazards and prepare for emergency rescues.”

Cal/OSHA cited Kittyhawk for nine safety violations including three serious, three serious accident-related and three general in nature.

The violations involved Kittyhawk’s failure to identify permit-required confined spaces, train the employees to safely perform their work in confined spaces, failure to monitor the atmospheric conditions in a confined space during maintenance, and failure to develop effective rescue and emergency procedures for rescuing endangered employees from confined spaces.

–City News Service 

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