Without proper safety measures taken, gases and or vapors in a confined space may overcome a worker or a lack of oxygen may suffocate them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that from 2011-2018, there were 1,030 confined space-related workers deaths.
In response to a January 2021 complaint, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated Schneider Electric’s Oxford production facility and found machine operators and maintenance employees entered powder-coating ovens routinely without testing atmospheric conditions or securing natural gas lines and operating machine parts. By doing so, the employer exposed these workers to dangerous asphyxiation hazards and the potential for serious injuries or worse.
The company, which manufactures large busways used for power distribution, faces proposed penalties of $119,757. OSHA determined Schneider Electric exposed workers to multiple safety and health hazards by failing to designate the ovens as permit-required confined spaces that require specific safety procedures before entry. The employer also failed to isolate natural gas lines and mechanical energy – a process known as lockout/tagout – to the ovens during maintenance procedures. OSHA cited the company for 11 serious violations of health and safety standards.