July 15, 2013 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 0Comment

[Update 1/21/2014 below]

Christopher Michael Cantu, 22, loved Tejano music and was proud of his Mexican heritage.   His family says he was always happy, full of energy and a hard worker.  Those are probably some of the qualities that helped him get a job in May at Coastal Plating Inc. in Corpus Christi, TX.   But after just three days on the job, Cantu died from a fatal work-related injury.  KIII TV reported:

“Cantu was killed when a piece of heavy equipment, a 2,600 pound metal tank, fell on him. …Cantu’s fellow employees rushed to his aid, but the tank he was working on was so massive, there was little they could do.  …[Cantu] was in a crouched position when the tank fell on him.”

Federal OSHA is conducting a post-fatality inspection, and it’s not the first time the agency has been called into the Coastal Plating facility.  In response to a referral from a credible source, the employer received citations in February 2008 for three serious violations, including failing to have an industrial sling securely attached to its load.  The citation read:

“…in the Cylinder Plating Shop, an employee was exposed to a struck-by hazard lifting a cylinder to drain oil, using an overhead hoist.  The sling used in the rigging was not securely hitched to the cylinder and did not provide control of the load.” (29 CFR 1910.184)

OSHA proposed a penalty of $5,000.  In exchange for not contesting the citations, one of the violations was reclassified as other-than-serious, and the penalty reduced to $2,625.

Responding to a complaint received in Spring 2010, OSHA issued another set of citations to Coastal Plating.  One was a repeat violation for failing to ensure employees wore steel-toed boots where there was a danger of falling or rolling objects or other hazards to their feet.  Another two violations, classified as other-than-serious, read:

“…in the Chrome Shop [and the Chrome Plating Shop], the employer could not provide inspection documents for hooks used on the overhead Gaffney Cranes which are used to hoist large crankshafts to and from chromium tanks.” (29 CFR 1910.179)

No monetary penalties were proposed for those violations, but a $3,300 penalty was proposed for the other citations, including the repeat infraction.  In exchange for not contesting the citations, Coastal Plating agreed to pay a $2,300 penalty.  Other than correcting the violations, nothing else was asked of the company, not in 2008, not in 2010.

OSHA does not comment on open inspection, but based on the news accounts, I wouldn’t be surprised if violations related to hoisting are found.  OSHA has until the end of November to issue any citations for this post-fatality inspection.

As the agency conducts its work related to the death of Christopher Michael Cantu, 22, I hope it looks into something else about this company.  It’s something that may have also played a role in the young worker’s death: rushing employees to get the job done.

Coastal Plating boasts about providing the “fastest service available” and “fast turnaround.”   The company also says “we keep our eye on costs” and “our prices are quite probably the lowest in the business.”

Physical and chemical hazards in workplaces are dangerous enough.  Piling on production pressure and cutting corners on safety make for deadly consequences.  What role did these factors have in Christopher Michael Cantu’s death?

Coastal Plating had a duty to provide the 22 year old–and all his co-workers—a safe workplace.  Its history with OSHA tells me the employer didn’t.

[Update 1/21/2014:  In November 2013, OSHA issued citations and proposed a $49,700 penalty against Coastal Plating following its post-fatality inspection of the death of Christopher Michael Cantu, 22.]

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