Region 9 News Release: SF 217
Wednesday, February 17, 1999
Tino Serrano: 415-975-4742
OSHA FINES EAST BAY BARGE COMPANY $97,000 FOR HAZARDOUS EXPOSURE
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined a Richmond maritime company $97,000 for not protecting employees working in a hazardous environment. The workers were exposed to petroleum products and fumes when repairing pumps on a barge.
Marin Tug and Barge, located at 1316 Canal Blvd. in Richmond, was cited for two willful and thirteen serious violations of OSHA's regulations. Three workers were repairing pumps on a barge carrying oil from the Tosco and Shell refineries last August when they were exposed to hazardous fumes and substances. The employees worked for 26 straight hours in a compartment filled with as much as eight feet of oil, where the ventilation ducts were at times below the level of the oil. The workers say they are suffering continuing medical problems because of that exposure.
"The employer put the health of these workers in serious jeopardy," said Alan Traenkner, director of enforcement and investigations for OSHA in San Francisco. "Time and again, we see employers ignoring important guidelines to protect those working in a confined space, and the workers suffer the tragic consequences."
The willful violations are for the failure to provide appropriate respirators and personal protective equipment for emergency response operations and for failure to test the atmosphere for hazardous substances prior to entering a confined space.
The serious violations include a lack of decontamination procedures; lack of training on handling hazardous materials; lack of an effective respiratory protective program; lack of rescue procedures for workers in confined spaces, and blocking of exits to confined spaces with ventilation ducts. Workers were also not given physical exams prior to the assignment to determine whether their health might be at special risk from using a respirator.
OSHA issues a willful violation only in cases when an employer knew that a condition constituted a violation or was aware that a hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to correct it.OSHA issues a serious citation only when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer either knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
The company has 15 working days from the date of the notice to contest the citations.
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