Region 10 News Release: 99-157
August 11, 1999
Contact: Jeannine Lupton
Phone: 206-553-7620 TDD:800-676-8956
NAVY CITED FOR WILLFUL AND SERIOUS CONFINED SPACE ENTRY VIOLATIONS AT NAVAL AIR STATION, WHIDBEY ISLAND IN OAK HARBOR, WASH.
SEATTLE - The U. S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced today it has issued citations for willful, serious and other violations against Naval Air Station, (NAS), Whidbey Island located in Oak Harbor, Wash.
According to Dean Ikeda, OSHA area director in Bellevue, Wash., the citations were the result of inspections conducted under a local program aimed at federal facilities with large numbers of workplace injuries and illnesses. In a letter accompanying the Notices of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions, the commanding officer at NAS, Whidbey was informed that if they had been a private sector employer, monetary penalties would have totaled $202,000.
The alleged willful violations include the failure to inform employees of the existence and location of permit-required confined spaces, and failure to implement a confined space entry program.
The alleged serious violations include the following: confined spaces were not identified and evaluated; employees who enter confined spaces were not properly trained; assessments of the need for personal protective equipment were inadequate; an exposure control plan for blood borne pathogens had not been developed; blood borne pathogens training was deficient; medical wastes were improperly handled; hepatitis-B vaccinations were not offered to first aid providers; an initial determination of exposure to methylene chloride had not been performed; the chemical hazard communication program was deficient; a drill press was unguarded; measures were not taken to prevent woodworking machinery from automatically restarting; and assistance had not been sought from higher authorities to abate hazards when local resources were deemed insufficient.
NAS Whidbey was charged with willful violations because they allowed employees to enter confined spaces to perform work fully knowing their program was deficient. In September 1994, OSHA cited NAS Whidbey for not informing employees of the existence and location of confined spaces and for not implementing a comprehensive program. Despite the Navy's assurances that those hazards had been abated, OSHA subsequently found a pattern of deficiencies which posed significant risks to employees who entered confined spaces such as sewer manholes, tanks, steam pits, fuel valve pits, liquid oxygen pits, and a variety of aircraft maintenance elevator pits.
According to Ikeda, the Navy has the right to meet informally with OSHA to discuss issues related to the Notices, such as methods of correction and length of abatement periods.
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Editor's Note: For further information please contact Dean Ikeda, OSHA Bellevue area director at 206-553-7520.