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Vapors Claim Painter in Renovation

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

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A commercial painter perished Sunday (April 21) while working on a City Hall renovation project in Tyler, TX, apparently after being overcome by vapors from the stain he was using.

The painter, who was not identified, worked for Watson Commercial Paint Company of Tyler. The company was working as a subcontractor to RPR Construction Co. Inc., also of Tyler.

RPR had been hired to renovate the 1,500-square-foot City Council Chambers on the historic building’s second floor.

‘Overcome by Fumes’

Tyler police were called to City Hall on Sunday morning. When they arrived, “officers found that a man had passed away after being overcome by fumes emitted from a stain being applied during a renovation project,” police said in a statement.

Tyler TX City Hall
Smith County Texas

The painter was stricken while working for a subcontractor on a renovation project at City Hall.

Both the police and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating. No other details were immediately available.

Watson Painting is a division of Watson Commercial Construction Ltd. Neither Watson nor RPR replied Monday (April 22) to a request for comment.

 “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the deceased,” said City Manager Mark McDaniel.  “This is a very tragic situation, and we are truly saddened.”

Ventilation Dangers

Ventilation may be deficient in confined spaces, facilities failing to provide adequate maintenance of ventilation equipment, facilities operated to maximize energy conservation, windowless areas, and areas with high occupant densities, OSHA notes.

Ventilation fan
OSHA

Ventilation is addressed in specific OSHA standards for general industry, construction, shipyard employment and longshoring.

The agency addresses ventilation in specific standards for the general industry, shipyard employment, longshoring, and the construction industry. OSHA also addresses ventilation as part of indoor air quality issues and as part of its oversight of hazardous and toxic substances.

Company, Site History

Founded in 2003, Watson Commercial Construction provides services to the East Texas region. The company paid a $3,500 fine (reduced from $4,950) in 2009 for three serious violations related to fall protection and general safety standards, according to OSHA’s database. No violations or inspections are listed for Watson Commercial Painting.

Founded in 1983, RPR paid $3,780 (reduced from $4,500) for one fall-protection violation in 2010, according to OSHA’s database.

Built in 1938, Tyler City Hall is an important local landmark significant for its architectural form and for its role as the seat of city government. The building’s interior has retained its original interior plaster walls, terrazzo flooring, marble wainscoting and decorative aluminum balustrade. The architectural and historic integrity has been retained to a very high degree.

Tyler City Hall was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

   

Tagged categories: Commercial contractors; Fall protection; Fatalities; Government contracts; OSHA; Painting Contractors; Respirators; Stains; Subcontractors; Ventilation

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (4/23/2013, 10:05 AM)

How sad that this small company paid more attention to the job than to their worker. According to Watson Commercial Construction's own website, they have 9 employees including a Safety Coordinator with "an extensive background in project safety and quality control. These two areas are by far the most important areas in the construction industry today. We place a great deal of significance on both. We have confidence in xxxxx's ability to monitor projects with a critical eye and to take corrective action when necessary." Do people have to die for employers to do the right thing to protect their employees and others? After all, these are conscious business decisions, not flukes of nature.


Comment from Webster Ryan, (4/23/2013, 8:33 PM)

Do we know that the worker was not provided with the proper safety equipment and instructions to use them? How often do workers refuse to use safety equipment because it is uncomfortable only to have the employer held accountable for something they often have little to no control over? No company can afford to have a supervisor watch every worker to make certain they follow safety protocols. It is shameful to damn the company without first knowing the facts. Without doubt, companies that willfully disregard the safety of their employees should be severely penalized. Let's start with getting the facts before we condemn.


Comment from David Bishton, (4/23/2013, 11:23 PM)

Facts must be known, yes. There is a general problem in that severe penalties are rare, liberal reductions in fines are common, and this applies to many types of enforcement besides construction. Should it take a death to get severe?


Comment from Donald L Crusan, (4/24/2013, 9:47 AM)

Webster, fire th worker if he refuses. It is not a suggestion, but something that must be done for the overall health of the company.


Comment from Cherie Thompson, (4/24/2013, 4:12 PM)

I agree with Webster, it doesn't make sense to pass such judgements without knowing the facts.


Comment from Brian Gingras, (4/24/2013, 5:45 PM)

Very good points by everyone but the employer is still responsible to ensure every worker is properly trained and uses all required PPE. Enforcement is necessary to ensure the safety of every worker. I might ask PPE should be the last line of defence not the only one. Every worker needs to be supervised for their and their co-workers own good.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (4/25/2013, 10:57 AM)

I'll certainly agree that we need many more facts before anyone jumps to conclusions. Yes, the employer has the responsibility to provide the safety training and equipment and to require its use. The employee has the responsibility to use the training and equipment to protect themselves or to refuse the work if they feel it is unsafe. What we don't know here is huge: did the company train the employee? Did they provide the appropriate PPE and/or ventilation devices? Was the employee using the PPE / ventilation devices? Was the employee using the appropriate chemical for the work being done? Was the employee working alone? Was there supervision and, if so, where was the supervisor during this incident? And the list just keeps going... It's tragic that someone has lost their life in what should be a preventable incident, but rather than pointing fingers right now (I'll let OSHA investigate to uncover the facts), I'll simply express my condolences to the family.


Comment from Jonathon Grote, (4/25/2013, 11:34 AM)

Very good conversation. Being a project manager I have dealt with the issue of safety often. I do find it frustrating that you can grind, grind, grind safety and hazardous scenarios into your employees heads, just to walk out on a job and see the negligence. Example: My crew grinds a bunch of concrete every day. I stress all the time the importance of silicates and what the long term effects are/ dangers. Wear your respirator, wear your respirator. I've walked out on jobs to see them in a dust cloud with no respirator on. Yes, warnings are given and even disciplinary action is given on repeat offenders, however there has to be some kind of personal accountability on the employee. In the end, yes the employer is responsible, but its almost impossible to be somewhere at every working minute. This is where I would suggest documentation on every safety meeting and there topics with signatures and dates. This way you can at least pull it out and say "look, we have had training on this violation that occurred." As far as PPE, I have my foreman send anyone home that doesn't come to the job with it.


Comment from Daniel Pedersen, (4/26/2013, 10:26 AM)

I want to join Jonathan in emphasizing the importance of documentation for the training and supervision. Companies should keep records of who was trained, exactly what they were trained on, how often they were supervised, and whether or not they complied or were warned. Management that has this kind of information can review it internally to identify whether or not there is a problem to better protect workers and reduce liability - and to serve as a legal defense if there is an accident. Meticulously kept records are much more effective in court than "Yeah, we trained him." But more importantly, they're an effective way to prevent accidents, if used properly.


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