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Feds fault S. Ozone company for deaths at Jamaica sewer

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The federal government issued its findings Tuesday on its inquiry into the South Ozone Park company and the Jamaica recycling plant that were involved in the summer deaths of three workers who were caught in a poisonous sewer.

In June, Harel Dahan was working on cleaning out a dry well inside the Royal Waste Services recycling center at 172-08 Douglas Ave. along with his S. Dahan Piping and Heating Co. co-workers when he fell into the 18-foot hole.

Harel Dahan’s father, Shlomo, who owned the piping company at 126-14 Van Wyck Expwy., went down, along with Royal worker Rene Francisco Rivas, to try and save the 23-year-old, but all three were killed instantly by the high levels of hydrogen sulfide inside the sewer.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration completed its investigation into the incident this week and said S. Dahan Piping and Royal should have taken measures to prevent the deaths.

“Many deaths in confined spaces occur because people who are attempting to rescue someone else are neither trained nor equipped to do so,” Kay Gee, OSHA’s director for Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn, said in a statement.

The agency’s investigation found that S. Dahan should have monitored the air quality in the dry well before anyone entered to clean it out. If it found a danger, OSHA said protective measures such as using breathing apparatuses should have been followed to ensure the safety of the workers.

OSHA also said Regal failed to post signs warning its employees of the potential dangers of working in the confined space.

“The family has already paid an incalculable price with the loss of two of its loved ones,” Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York, said in a statement. “Nothing can restore their lives, but it is our hope that employers will heed these findings and take effective action to prevent future confined-space tragedies.”

S. Dahan Piping and Royal could not be reached for comment as of press time Tuesday.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 5:42 pm, October 10, 2011
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