OSHA cites N.J.-Based Marine Contractor

OSHA has cited and fined Weeks Marine $360,000 following a fatal accident in which a crane slid off a barge into Maine's Kennebec River.

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OSHA has cited Weeks Marine following a fatal accident in which a crane slid off a barge into Maine''s Kennebec River.

A total of $360,000 in fines is proposed against the Cranford, N.J.-based marine construction contractor.

Weeks Marine had been contracted to dredge part of the Kennebec River at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. The dredging was performed by a mobile crane situated on a barge. Two employees were working in the crane when it went into the river on Dec. 21. One worker was rescued, the second has not been found and is presumed dead.

"OSHA''s inspection found that the crane had not been secured to the barge as required by OSHA standards," said C. William Freeman III, OSHA area director for Maine. "In addition, the company failed to ensure that the crane was operating safely within its manufacturer''s specifications and limitations, failed to repair or replace a malfunctioning swing gear and failed to have a lifesaving skiff available for immediate use in the event workers went into the river.

"These conditions existed from the onset of the job, almost three weeks before the accident, and the company''s onsite supervisors knew and did nothing to correct these hazards," he said. "As a result, these violations have been classified as willful and the maximum allowed fine -- $70,000 -- is being proposed for each of these four violations."

The four willful violations are:

  • failure to positively secure the crane to the barge, thus allowing it to slide off the barge into the river;
  • failure to ensure, prior to commencing dredging operations, that the crane was operating safely within manufacture''s specifications and limitations regarding the crane''s dredging capacity, the proper length of its boom, the proper amount of counterweight and the barge''s allowable list;
  • failure to repair or replace defective swing gear before its continued use; and
  • failure to have a lifesaving skiff immediately available for employees working on the barge.

The repeat violation concerned failure to provide workers with a ramp or other safe means of accessing and crossing to and from the barge, the wharf, the float and a towboat. OSHA had twice cited Weeks Marine in 1998 for similar violations at two New York worksites.

The serious violations, totaling $10,000, were for:

  • failing to keep decks and other working surfaces of the barge clear of ice and snow, and
  • not removing a defective ladder from service.

"Securing a mobile crane to a barge is a basic, well-known safeguard that must be utilized on each and every job where it is required," Freeman said. "If the company had provided and ensured this vital and necessary protection, this accident could have been avoided. No job, no deadline, no excuse is worth the loss of a human life."

by Melissa Martin

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