OSHA Fines Business after Death of Employee Unclogging Sewage Line

01 Feb, 2024 Liz Carey


Liz Carey

Rome, GA (WorkersCompensation.com) – Officials investigating the death of a Rome, Ga. plumbing employee have fined the company more than $180,000 for seven safety violations following the death of one of its employees.

According to reports, Robert Hall was killed while working for K&D Plumbing on a sewage line at Armuchee High School in Floyd County, Ga., on July 13. Investigators said Hall fell 20 feet while working on a manhole ad suffered internal organ damage as a result.

Officials said he was on a ladder when he fell into the hole. Officers at the scene said he lost consciousness and could not be revived.

An investigation by OSHA found that K&D Plumbing had failed to provide its employees with safe ingress and egress into the sewage line trench, and that the company exposed employees to fall hazards and cave-in hazards.

“An employee working as a journeyman plumber on a crew for a plumbing contractor had entered a manhole,” OSHA’s report said. “The employee needed to unclog a sewage line that he and his crew were installing. The employee stood on the second step down into the manhole and attempted to reach the line opening when he lost his footing.”

OSHA fined the company $184,387 for seven safety violations – six serious and one willful. OSHA cited K&D for not having a safe means of getting out of trench excavations, allowing employees to work in excavations where there was accumulated water and exposed employees to cave-in hazards, not providing protection from falling debris, not conducting an inspection of the excavation prior to work starting, not testing the trench’s internal atmosphere, not developing a written permit space entry program and not having any cave-in protect in place.

The failure to develop and implement a written entry program was considered to be a willful violation and accrued a $156,259 penalty. Each of the other violations elicited a $4,688 penalty for a total of $28,128.

The company has 14 working days to accept or dispute OSHA’s findings.

Hall’s family wants to know how the accident could have happened. They told WSBTV that Hall was in the hole for 45 minutes before help could get to him.

“It don’t make sense to me why it takes so long to get down there when you should have been prepared for anything like that. Doing a job like that,” Kari Hall, Robert Hall’s sister, said.

Kari Hall suspected it might have been methane gas in the sewer lines, and consequently the trench.

“You know that stuff is awful. It’ll kill you,” Hall said. “I feel like maybe that’s what got him.”

Hall was slated to marry his fiancée just months after the accident, Kari Hall said. He had worked as a plumber since his was 15, his sister said.

“He loved the grime and dirt. Everything about it. Making something that’s not working workable again,” Hames said.

Floyd County School Superintendent Dr. Glenn White said the school system sent its condolences to the family.

“During this time, we have extended our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family,” White said in a statement. “We also understand this is a difficult time for the company who lost this employee, and we would like to extend our thoughts to them and anyone else who knew and loved this individual.”

Hall’s manager at K&D Plumbing told WSBTV he was an amazing gentleman and that they wished they could bring him back.

A GoFundMe account raised more than $20,000 for funeral expenses in July. Hall’s fiancée, Melinda Rich and their four children were the beneficiaries.

“Robert was an amazing man who has left behind an amazing family!” John Burtz, Melinda’s father and the GoFundMe organizer, said. “His family like all of us were not prepared for this tragedy. Robert was the sole provider for his family with no insurance.”

What's the cap for burial expenses under Georgia workers' compensation law? Find it in the Compliance Summaries on Simply Research

On July 20, Melinda thanked those who contributed to the fund.

“I will never be able to thank everyone enough for all the donations and the prayers,” she wrote. “Please continue to pray for us as life will just never be the same and we have so much to figure out. This was such a blessing to me and my children and I will forever be thankful there are so many kind-hearted people in the world. My Robert was one of the best and I know he would be so grateful for your help in taking care of his family.”

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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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