Industrial Safety Experts Discuss Evaporator Tank Cleaning Accident


Industrial Safety Expert WitnessThis case involves a man who was injured while cleaning the inside of an evaporator tank at a large brewing company in New Hampshire. He was cleaning the tank to remove calcified material that had collected over time. There was no inspection or cleaning protocol laid out before the plaintiff was sent in to clean this tank. The plaintiff was cleaning inside the tank on recently assembled scaffolding, when suddenly and without warning, large blocks of calcified material toward the top of the tank came crashing down, knocking the plaintiff off of the scaffolding and destroying the scaffolding entirely. As a result of the injuries he suffered, the man is unable to work and will require years of ongoing medical care.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Do you have extensive familiarity with industrial plant management and safety protocol?
  • 2. Are you familiar with any industry standards, or do you have personal experience with the cleaning and inspection of industrial equipment?
  • 3. Are you familiar with reasonable or best practices for maintaining confined space equipment?

Expert Witness Response E-009380

Expert-ID: E-009380

I have 30 years in industrial management in manufacturing plants of up to 1000 employees. My duties included management of maintenance departments with specific requirements for cleaning equipment. In addition I have been a safety consultant for 24 years. My practice has included cases involving confined spaces as well as the more general topics of hazard analysis and avoidance, job hazard analysis, and so forth. I am familiar with OSHA and industry standards. I know of no standards specific to scaling overhead (except in the mining industry) but this incident would come under the “general duty clause” (providing a safe workplace) as well as the confined space OSHA regulations. I have not reviewed a case exactly like this although a good deal of my practice involves the duty of an employer to provide a safe workplace and safe work protocols.

Expert Witness Response E-007347

I have considerable expertise in this area and have testified in depositions regarding fatalities within confined spaces. I have written several articles and a chapter in two textbooks on the topic of proper safeguarding. I regularly train workers in both low and high-hazard industries on proper procedures for classifying and entering confined spaces. We also provide oversight at industrial plants during heavy maintenance projects where we issue hundreds of confined space entry permits during which we identify and mitigate the hazards that are present. The description of the facts provided above indicates considerable violation of numerous OSHA regulations. Depending on the location, other state-OSHA regulations may also be involved and were violated. These include classifying the space, identifying the hazards within the space, mitigating the hazards prior and during entry, and providing for rescue services to be present.

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