In this case a man was rendered unconscious after being exposed to toxic fumes in a large container while he was working inside of it. Fortunately for this worker, he was rescued by the local fire department. His employer, Dana Container, wound up fighting citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The administrative law judge and the Occupational Safety Review Commission upheld OSHA’s actions, and Dana then turned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for review. Because Dana has not provided a compelling reason to overturn the commission’s determination, the petition for review was denied.
Dana operates a truck-tank washing facility near the Stevenson Expressway in Summit, Ill. The tanks cleaned at Dana’s facility are long metallic cylinders used to transport products such as ink and latex. After the tanks were emptied at their destination, truckers then brings them to Dana’s facility for cleaning so that they can haul different products without changes.
Before washing a tank, employees drain any residual product from it. Then employees insert a mechanical spinner that rotates scrubbers from one end of the tank to the other, simultaneously dousing it with soap or solvent (or both). Then the tanks are given a final rinse of water and blown dry. Most of the time, this process works fine in cleaning the tanks. When it does not work, employees enter the tank and manually clean out the remaining sludge or residue. Because the tank space is confined and may contain chemicals that are hazardous to health, OSHA has promulgated regulations that require companies to enforce certain safety precautions when their employees enter these “permit-required confined spaces (PRCSs).” 29 C.F.R. ¶1910.146.