Cal/OSHA issued 11 citations totaling $371,250 to Baxter Healthcare Corporation dba Baxter Bioscience recently for deliberate and willful workplace safety violations which resulted in the death of one of their technicians and serious injury of two others.
According to Cal/OSHA, the violations included four willful citations, indicating intentional violation or knowledge of a violation. Baxter has 15 business days to appeal or pay the citations.
Baxter technician Henry Astilla, 33, collapsed when he entered a seven foot deep, 6,000-liter tank in which nitrogen gas was being bubbled through plasma as part of a protein extraction process. Air in the tank was displaced by the nitrogen resulting in an oxygen-deficient atmosphere in the tank. Cal/OSHA regulations require employers to have special protective procedures in place prior to the entrance by employees into these types of confined spaces. In this case, the employer had not tested the atmosphere prior to entrance to insure there was sufficient oxygen, which led to Astilla’s death.
Cal OSHA’s investigation further revealed that when Astilla was discovered, a supervisor ordered two other employees to enter the tank and retrieve him, without testing the atmosphere of the tank or providing proper equipment and other safeguards necessary for a safe rescue. As a result, Astilla died and the two employees sent to retrieve him were seriously injured. One remains hospitalized.
“The hazards of working in confined spaces are well documented and this is a classic example of the kind of injury that occurs when employers fail to adequately protect their employees,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “When confined space operations are not properly planned, it is unfortunately common for other employees to be injured or killed while attempting impromptu rescue of the initial victim.”
Cal/OSHA determined Baxter’s confined space program failed to comply with all requirements, including appropriate atmospheric testing, protective equipment as well as rescue equipment and procedures.
Baxter Bioscience is a multi-national pharmaceutical company with a Los Angeles plant located in Atwater Village. The facility is the largest of its kind in the nation, utilizing advanced technology to produce plasma proteins.
The citations Cal/OSHA issued included one classified as general and 10 classified as serious, four of which were classified as willful. Willful classifications are issued when an employer either commits an intentional violation or is aware that it violates a safety law, or when an employer is aware that an unsafe or hazardous condition exists and makes no reasonable effort to eliminate the hazard.
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
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