AUSTIN (KXAN) — An airport contractor is looking at $301,188 in fines following an employee’s death at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in April.
It’s the latest update following the death of Lonnie Deary, who suffocated trying to clean an underground grease trap at the airport’s East Loading Dock.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Liquid Environmental Solutions lacked proper procedures, training and equipment for accessing the permit-required confined space underground.
KXAN investigators found that Liquid Environmental Solutions was not trained to handle the hazardous conditions that awaited Deary under the ground.
Reports from the night of the incident say Deary went underground but was overcome by toxic gases and became unconscious. The military veteran died in the hospital the next day
Hydrogen sulfide and low levels of oxygen were detected in the underground grease trap area.
OSHA inspection documents say Liquid Environmental Solutions did not implement effective measures to prevent confined space entry, exposing employees to a hazardous atmosphere inside the space.
Federal investigators also cited the company for “not providing training for all employees to recognize the hazards associated with entering Permit Required Confined Spaces.”
Liquid Environmental Solutions sent KXAN a statement on the findings. It reads:
“Liquid Environmental Solutions (LES) has cooperated fully with the OSHA investigation of the April 10 incident at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. LES has requested an informal conference and will make a final decision on whether to contest the citations after the informal conference. We are confident that neither LES nor anyone in our management have knowingly or willfully failed to follow OSHA regulations, nor has LES been in any way indifferent to the safety of our employees. Our employees safety is our paramount concern. Without commenting on the specific facts of this case, confined space awareness training has been a part of our field service technician training from the formation of the company in 2001.
The company continued,
“LES also has a longstanding policy that we do not perform any services in confined spaces, and that all confined spaces need to be serviced by a licensed subcontractor with full compliant confined space entry expertise. The facts surrounding this tragic accident are complicated and there are many questions that remain unanswered.”
While the company is saying it doesn’t perform services in confined spaces, that’s exactly where Deary was when he became unconscious.
Other citations were related to not having adequate safety equipment for the job or warning signs at the worksite.
For months, we’ve been asking ABIA whether it knew its then-contractor did not have proper training for the job.
A statement sent to KXAN from the airport reads:
“The City of Austin takes workplace safety seriously. To that end, all City of Austin contracts require compliance with state and federal laws—including OSHA. The City’s contract with Liquid Environmental Solutions was no different. We appreciate OSHA’s quick and thorough investigation into Liquid Environmental Solutions’ actions.“