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OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents
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DOL Logo OSHA National News Release

U.S. Department of Labor

National News Release: USDL 99-85
Monday, April 5, 1999
Contact: Frank Kane 202-693-1999

Workers Exposed to 90-foot Falls


A total of 473 instances of alleged workplace safety and health violations, including exposing employees to potentially fatal falls, prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration today to propose fines totaling $537,000 against Avondale Industries, Inc.'s shipyard in Avondale, La.

"I am deeply concerned about the conditions that OSHA found at Avondale," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "Falls are a leading cause of on-the-job fatalities, and Avondale put its workers at risk of falls of up to 90 feet. The stiff penalties are warranted. Workers should not have to risk their lives for their livelihood."

"Three Avondale employees have fallen to their deaths, one each in 1984, 1993 and 1994. This inspection revealed that conditions related to these fatalities continued to exist at the shipyard. This continued willful disregard for their employees' safety is unacceptable, " said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Charles N. Jeffress.

OSHA issued 60 citations against the shipbuilder, grouping 473 instances in which the employer allegedly failed to follow safety or health standards. These involved willful or serious violations: four citations for willful violations, involving 266 instances, with proposed penalties of $280,000; and 55 serious violations, involving 206 instances, with proposed penalties of $253,500. One other citation was issued for a less serious violation, with a penalty of $3,500. OSHA proposed the maximum fine of $70,000 for each of the four willful categories.

Avondale Industries has 6,600 employees in the shipyard, building ships for commercial ventures and the U.S. Navy. The employees are represented by the New Orleans Metal Trades Council, which has 11 trade unions at the shipyard.

OSHA's inspection was in response to union complaints about more than 60 hazards involved in the shipbuilding operations. The complaints involved possible imminent danger from falls as well as serious health issues.

OSHA's citations for alleged willful violations were for failure to provide safe scaffolding as well as inadequate points of anchorage for employees who were tying off with lanyards for fall protection, guarding of manholes and comparable small openings, guarding of an open-sided floors and decks; and lack of training for employees exposed to fall hazards. The citations for alleged serious violations included violations of a wide variety of standards covering both general industry and shipbuilding.

OSHA began its inspection Oct. 5, 1998, and was denied access to medical and training records Oct. 26. The agency brought an action in federal court to enforce the subpoena seeking the medical records. An order was issued granting the agency unfettered access to the records sought and ordered Avondale to produce such records by January 23, 1999.

The agency obtained a warrant on January 22, 1999, and went back on Jan. 27 to conduct a comprehensive fall protection inspection. At that time, OSHA also began the arduous task of examining Avondale's medical records. OSHA is continuing to examine those records for possible recordkeeping violations.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and OSHA regulations. A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Avondale Industries has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


(Editor's Note: See Attached Fact Sheet for Summary of Citations and Penalties)

The text of this news release is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov.

Information on this news release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: 202-693-1999.



Alleged Willful Violations  
Scaffolding, staging, runways or work platforms with falls of more than 5 feet not provided railings 42 to 45 inches high with mid-rails, 107 instances; failure to ensure that guard rails constructed of wire rope or fiber rope were kept taut and secure, 51 instances; and fall protection devices not attached to adequately strong anchorage points, 30 instances. $70,000
Flush manholes or other comparable small openings in the deck and other working surfaces were not suitably covered or guarded while employees were working in the vicinity, 26 instances. $70,000
Edges of decks, platforms, flats or similar flat surfaces more than 5 feet above a solid surface had inadequate guard rails, 25 instances. $70,000
Employees were not adequately trained in the use, inspection, and storage of personal fall arrest equipment, 27 instances. $70,000
Alleged Serious Violations
55 violations of various general industry standards covering such topics as guarding floor and wall openings and holes; fixed industrial stairs; fixed ladders; portable wood ladders, scaffolding; vehicle-mounted work platforms; occupational noise exposure; flammable and combustible liquids; respirators; sanitation; cranes; guarding mechanical power presses; and electrical equipment and shipbuilding standards covering hot work ; abrasive blasting; gas welding and cutting; arc welding and cutting; scaffolds; ladders, guarding of deck openings and edges, access to cargo spaces, working surfaces, housekeeping, illumination, confined spaces, use of gear, tools and related equipment, personal protective equipment, hazard assessment and equipment, personal fall arrest systems, and electrical machinery, 206 instances of violations, with penalties ranging from zero to $7,000 per violation.
One other-than-serious citation is being issued with a penalty of $3,500.


Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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