Region 2 News Release: NY 128
April 13, 1999
Contact: Chester J. Fultz
PHONE : 212-337-2319
SHIP REPAIR COMPANY CITED BY OSHA FOR ALLEGED SAFETY AND HEALTH VIOLATIONS IN FATAL BARGE EXPLOSION AT BROOKLYN NAVY YARD; $124,000 IN PENALTIES PROPOSED
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Eastern Technical Enterprises, located at Dry Dock 4, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, and proposed penalties of $124,000 against the firm for four alleged repeat violations, one alleged willful violation, 20 alleged serious violations, and two alleged other-serious violations of OSHA standards. The company has until April 30 to contest the citations.
According to OSHA area director Robert D. Kulick, the action results from an investigation following an explosion aboard a fuel barge at the facility on October 10, 1998. Welder Arias Matias, 29, of Manhattan, was killed and another employee seriously injured while engaged in welding aboard the barge Oyster Bay.
OSHA cited Eastern Technical Enterprises for four alleged repeat violations carrying a total proposed penalty of $30,000 for:
failing to retest the atmosphere of a potentially hazardous confined space to determine whether it was safe to enter;
failing to have a written hazard communication program specifically to address the hazards associated with propane, lead, cadmium, and manganese;
failing to properly secure acetylene cylinders;
failing to ensure that all electrical equipment was properly grounded.
A repeat violation is one for which an employer has been previously cited for the same or a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Eastern Technical Enterprises was previously cited for these conditions in October, 1997.
OSHA regional administrator Patricia K. Clark said the repeat citations demonstrated that Eastern Technical Enterprises had ample warning of hazardous conditions and failed to respond. "This tragedy could have been averted if the employer had acted appropriately after our previous inspection," she said. "Shipyard work invariably involves confined spaces, potentially explosive atmospheres, and less-than-ideal working conditions. But companies have a much better chance of not killing or injuring their people if they will take the OSHA standards seriously and comply with their provisions."
OSHA further alleges that the company willfully violated OSHA's shipyard industry standard by exposing employees to the moving parts of hoisting and hauling equipment. The alleged willful violation carries a proposed penalty of $33,000.
The alleged serious violations for which the employer was cited included:
failure to maintain ventilation in a confined space, to ensure that the designated competent person was adequately trained to properly assess the hazards of a confined space, and to train employees about the potential hazards associated with working in a confined space;
failure to test a hot-work area prior to allowing employees to work there, and to post a hot-work permit in the immediate vicinity ;
failure to ensure that gas hoses were immediately removed from a confined space when left open-ended;
failure to provide additional personnel to guard against fire during welding, heating, or cutting operations;
failure to properly label fuel gas and oxygen manifolds;
failure to inspect at the start of each shift all hoses carrying oxygen or any flammable gas and all torches for leaking shutoff valves, hose couplings, and tip connections;
failure to provide fire extinguishers when conducting hot work in confined spaces;
failure to remove from service worn welding cables with exposed conductors;
failure to ensure that work surfaces were free of accumulated lead and cadmium dust;
failure to provide required fall protection on elevated work surfaces;
failure to assess the workplace for hazards requiring personal protective equipment.
The serious violations carry a total proposed penalty of $60,000.
The firm was also cited for failure to ensure that air withdrawn from confined spaces was replaced with clean, respirable air, and for permitting unsanitary toilet facilities, two alleged other-than-serious violations carrying a total proposed penalty of $1,000.
A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard for, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSHA act and regulations. A serious violation is defined as a condition which exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result. An other-than-serious violation is a hazardous condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.
The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Manhattan area office, located at 6 World Trade Center, room 881, New York, New York, telephone (212) 466-2481.
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