Not an “accident”: Stanley Thomas Wright, 47, suffers work-related asphyxiation at railyard in North Las Vegas

Stanley Thomas Wright, 47, was asphyxiated on Saturday, August 2, while working inside a tank car at a railyard in North Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports

  • the local fire department was called to the scene at about 1:00 am
  • Wright’s co-workers said he lost consciousness while inside the railcar tanker

Fox5 reports

  • the railcar contained ethanol vapors and Wright was overcome by the gas
  • it took fire and rescue crews until mid-day Saturday to make the scene safe

This incident brings to mind Ingrid Lobet’s reporting from May in the Houston Chronicle: “Largely invisible tank cleaning industry awash in risk.” She found 373 locations nationwide where industrial cleaning of railcar and barge tanks is conducted, but suspected there were many more. An interactive map accompanying her story did not identify any located in Nevada.

News stories to-date do not identify the victim’s employer. Nevada OSHA is conducting a post-fatality inspection of the North Las Vegas worksite where Stanley Thomas Wright lost his life. If the agency’s inspectors identify violations of health or safety regulations, the company will be cited.

Each year, dozens of workers in Nevada are fatally injured on-the-job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 42 work-related fatal injuries in Nevada during 2012 (most recent available data.) Nationwide, at least 4,628 workers suffer fatal traumatic injuries in 2012.

The AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job report notes:

  • The Nevada Department of Business and Industry’s Division of Industrial Relations has 44 workplace safety inspectors in the State. Nevada has more than 58,000 workplaces.
  • The average penalty in Nevada for a serious violation of a workplace safety standard is $2,133.

Nevada OSHA has until February 2015 to issue any citations and penalties related to the incident that stole Stanley Thomas Wright’s life.  It’s likely they’ll determine that fundamental safety precautions for entering a confined space were not followed, and that Stanley Thomas Wright’s death was preventable. It was no “accident.”

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