OSHA Fines Ship Builder Following Fatality

Sept. 6, 2000
OSHA issued citations and levied fines against a ship-building\r\ncompany, and one of it's subcontractors following a workplace accident that took the life of one worker and\r\ninjured a second.

OSHA issued citations and levied fines against a ship-building company, and one of it''s subcontractors following an investigation into a workplace accident that took the life of one worker and injured a second.

The investigation was prompted by the Feb. 27 death of a civilian shipyard worker asphyxiated while working on a sewage tank on the U.S.S. Peleliu at a naval station in San Diego.

The worker was overcome by hydrogen sulfide fumes while removing the cover from the tank. He passed out, fell head-first into the tank, and was pronounced dead when rescuers removed him from the tank 45 minutes later.

A second worker was only slightly injured when he was overcome from fumes and collapsed on top of the tank.

As the OSHA investigation proceeded, federal compliance officers documented violations of federal workplace safety and health rules by the subcontractor, Action Cleaning, who employed the victims, and by the operator of the shipyard, National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO).

OSHA fined Action Cleaning Corp. $69,1000 for failure to arrange for the immediate rescue of incapacitated employees in confined or enclosed spaces. Serious violations included:

  • failure to identify and evaluate the breathing hazards;
  • failure to provide employees with breathing apparatus as needed;
  • failure to train employees to recognize the hazards of confined spaces and how to escape such areas when necessary; and
  • the failure to issue safety harnesses and life-lines to employees about to enter confined spaces.

The company was also fined for the lack of signs and instructions in a language or format understandable to workers -- in this case in Spanish.

OSHA also fined NASSCO $12,500 for neglecting to share information with sub-contractors working in the facility regarding the hazards, safety rules and emergency procedures for work in confined spaces.

The company received serious violations for:

  • failing to post tests, inspections and special instructions;
  • not clearly identifying hazards, not ensuring that emergency rescue procedures were in place; and
  • failing to have a competent person inspect when necessary to ensure safe conditions in confined spaces.

According to OSHA Enforcement and Investigations Director Leonard Limtiaco, "Employers are responsible for ensuring that employees working in confined or enclosed spaces follow established and recognized procedures to avoid tragic accidents such as this one."

Limtiaco stressed that not all of the citations resulting from this investigation were responsible for the death of the employee.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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