All three men died. Post-incident atmospheric testing in the manhole revealed lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide . Two other employees and a volunteer firefighter also were exposed to the toxic gases in the manhole during rescue attempts but survived. “The hazards of working in manholes are well established, but there are ways to make it safe,” said Condell Eastmond, the OSHA area director in Fort Lauderdale. “Three employees needlessly lost their lives and others were injured due to their employer’s failure to follow safe work practices.” OSHA has cited a South Florida utility company and related contracting company after the agency’s investigation into the deaths of the workers. OSHA investigators cited Douglas N. Higgins Inc. and its related contracting company, McKenna Contracting LLC, with 10 serious violations totaling $119,507, in penalties. The incident-related serious violations are for failing to purge or ventilate the confined space before entry, exposing the workers to an asphyxiation hazard and not providing necessary rescue and emergency equipment for employees who were overcome inside a permit-required confined space. In addition, OSHA issued serious citations to Higgins and McKenna Contracting for failing to: Develop and implement a written hazard communication program for a worksite in which employees were exposed to dangerous chemicals and gases. Use a calibrated, direct-reading device to test for toxic gases, creating an asphyxiation hazard. Create and document the confined space entry permit .
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