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Ohio diver's death blamed on company safety violations

U.S. Aqua Vac Inc. is an out-of-state company that provides diving services in Ohio and nationwide. Divers help to clear debris from lakes and ponds, as was the case last November when a company diver entered a pond in New Albany. The 23-year-old man died after he ran out of air while working.

This wasn't the first fatal accident for the employer. Another diver employed by U.S. Aqua Vac was killed under similar circumstances in 2009. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported some of the same work safety violations found during the first fatality investigation were present at the time of the second diver's death.

The New Albany diver had no back-up air tank or two-way communication device. No one was maintaining visual contact with the worker or tending the line to make sure the diver was safe. OSHA said U.S. Aqua Vac also lacked a suction hose guard and depth gauges, tests and maintenance of equipment, a pre-dive inspection of the work area and adequate safety training - even CPR training -- for divers, among other safeguards that might have saved the workers' lives.

OSHA recommended a fine of more than $223,000 for 17 safety violations including two willful and four repeat violations. Due to the company's accident track record, U.S. Aqua Vac's name was added to OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. All employers are given the opportunity to contest OSHA's proposed penalties.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigates deaths and serious injuries in DuPage County workplaces. The federal regulatory agency can recommend fines against employers, but cannot order companies to compensate victims of these largely-preventable disasters. Instead, benefits for injured workers and grief-stricken families are paid through workers' compensation insurance funded by Ohio employers.

Attorneys assist victims of workplace accidents by facilitating the claims' process, representing employees in workers' comp disputes and locating alternate sources of compensation, including damages from third-party lawsuits.

Source: Norwalk Reflector, "Company cited in death of diver in Ohio pond," May. 12, 2015

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