Employee Complaints Prompt OSHA Visit, Citations

A Maine shipbuilder is hit with over $200,000 in fines following an OSHA inspection.

Safety is out to sea and sinking fast at Maine's Bath Iron Works, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Following a six-month investigation at the shipbuilder, prompted by employee complaints, OSHA proposed $201,775 in fines against the shipbuilder for a total of 50 alleged violations. The agency claims that workers at Bath Iron Works have been exposed to a variety of crushing, impalement, electrical, laceration, amputation and other hazards.

"This case clearly illustrates the need for employers to carefully monitor their workplaces and identify potential safety or health hazards," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "Thorough safety audits are a vital and effective tool to ensure safe and healthful workplaces."

Fourteen of the citations, accounting for $165,00 in fines, were repeat violations. OSHA cited the shipyard for substantially similar violations in September 1999. OSHA inspectors found impalement and puncture hazards from protruding insulation pins; studs and angle irons left uncovered after sandblasting; unguarded or inadequately guarded drill presses and bench grinders; cranes swinging loads over employees; blocked electrical panels and ungrounded electrical equipment; an unguarded deck opening; improper use of body belts as personal fall arrest systems; unmarked exit doors; thoroughfares obstructed by air hoses and ventilation lines; and inoperable air flow monitors in paint spray booths.

Eighteen citations were classified as serious, with $36,775 in fines. Hazards included an unstable section of a brick wall in the yard's machine shop; unsafe operation of forklift trucks; lack of an eyewash station for employees working with corrosive chemicals; unguarded or inadequately guarded saws; electric panel boxes with exposed live parts, and panels missing circuit breakers, knockouts, and outlet covers; cracked and damaged welding hoses and failure to use proper protective equipment during welding; tag lines not used to prevent crane loads from swinging; inadequate or unprotected lighting in the yard's sand blast building; inadequate wire ropes and chains used as a railing; and heavily corroded scaffold uprights.

The remaining 18 citations were classified as other-than-serious and include deficiencies with ladders; exit and other signage; fire extinguishers; toeboards; lanyards; power cords; lead housekeeping; and failure to evaluate respiratory hazards.

"The potential for tragedy is very real at this worksite," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "The employer is aware of the standards that will protect workers from the numerous hazards we found during our inspection; yet, numerous repeat violations reveal that the company continues to disregard the rules. Bath Iron Works must be held accountable and their philosophy on worker safety must change."

edited by Sandy Smith

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