OSHA Cites Brownsville, Pa. Company For Safety and Health Violations

Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao says a significant penalty is warranted in the case of HBC Barge, LLC of Brownsville, Pa. for allegedly allowing employees to enter dangerous confined spaces without training and exposing them to explosive conditions.

Proposed penalties for the alleged willful and serious violations total almost $170,000. HBC builds and repairs barges.

OSHA's Pittsburgh office initiated an inspection after an explosion in May injured two workers. The employees, who were painting in confined spaces below the deck of a barge, were not evacuated when flammable vapors reached dangerous levels.

"Confined spaces can be particularly hazardous, because of cramped working conditions or dangerous atmospheres," cautioned U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "This significant penalty of $169,600 sends a strong signal this blatant disregard for worker safety will not be tolerated."

According to investigators, the workers were not trained on confined space entry and a competent person did not perform frequent tests to monitor the concentration of flammable vapors, as required by safety standards. These alleged violations are considered willful and carry a penalty of $126,000.

Twelve serious violations, with a proposed penalty of $43,600, were issued for other hazards associated with work in confined spaces such as the lack of adequate ventilation. Others included the lack of fall protection and fire extinguishers, permitting hot work in dangerous atmospheres without atmospheric testing, and a lack of proper personal protective equipment.

Willful violations are those committed with intentional disregard, or plain indifference, to safety and health regulations. Serious violations are defined as those where death or serious injury could occur and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

The company has 15 working days to contest the citations before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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