Region 9 News Release: USDL-114
August 30, 2000
Contact: Tino Serrano
OSHA FINES OF $81,600 FOLLOWING FATALITY AT NAVAL STATION SAN DIEGO
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued citations and levied fines against a ship-building company, and one of it's subcontractors following an investigation into a workplace accident that took the life of one worker and injured a second.
The OSHA investigation was prompted by the February 27 death of a civilian shipyard worker asphyxiated while working on a sewage tank on the U.S.S. Peleliu at the 32nd Street Naval Station in San Diego. The worker was overcome by hydrogen sulfide fumes while removing the cover from the tank. He passed out, fell head-first into the tank, and was pronounced dead when rescuers removed him from the tank 45 minutes later. A second worker was only slightly injured when he was overcome from fumes and collapsed on top of the tank.
As the OSHA investigation proceeded, federal compliance officers documented violations of federal workplace safety and health rules by the subcontractor, Action Cleaning, who employed the victims, and by the operator of the shipyard, National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO).
OSHA cited Action Cleaning Corporation, the employer of the two victims, with offices at 1668 Newton Avenue in San Diego, for one willful violation, seven serious violations and one "other-than-serious" violation. The citations include penalties of $69,100. The willful violation is for the failure to arrange for the immediate rescue of incapacitated employees in confined or enclosed spaces. The serious violations include, among others: failure to identify and evaluate the breathing hazards; failure to provide employees with breathing apparatus as needed; failure to train employees to recognize the hazards of confined spaces and how to escape such areas when necessary; and the failure to issue safety harnesses and life-lines to employees about to enter confined spaces. The "other-than-serious" violation is for the lack of signs and instructions in a language or format understandable to workers - in this case in Spanish.
OSHA also cited NASSCO for four serious violations, and assessed the shipyard at Harbor Drive and 28th Street with penalties of $12,500. One serious violation is for neglecting to share information with sub-contractors working in the facility regarding the hazards, safety rules and emergency procedures for work in confined spaces. The second serious violation is for failing to post tests, inspections and special instructions, and not clearly identifying hazards. The third serious violation is for not ensuring that emergency rescue procedures were in place. The fourth serious violation was issued for failing to have a competent person inspect when necessary to ensure safe conditions in confined spaces.
According to OSHA Enforcement and Investigations Director Leonard Limtiaco, "Employers are responsible for ensuring that employees working in confined or enclosed spaces follow established and recognized procedures to avoid tragic accidents such as this one." Limtiaco stressed that not all of the citations resulting from this investigation were responsible for the death of this employee.
OSHA issues willful citations only in cases where an employer knew that a condition constituted a violation, or was aware that a hazardous condition existed and made to reasonable effort to correct it. OSHA issues a notification of a serious hazard 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.
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