Drowning Leads to Pier Safety Fine

Nov. 12, 1999
For the second time this year, OSHA has cited and fined the same Honolulu ship loading company for knowingly allowing employees to work in hazardous conditions.

For the second time this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited and fined the same Honolulu ship loading company for knowingly allowing employees to work in hazardous conditions.

Hawaii Stevedores Inc., based in Honolulu, was cited Nov. 8 for serious violations of federal safety and health regulations following an investigation into a drowning May 25, 1999, when Edgar Fernandez accidentally drove a vehicle off a pier into 40-foot-deep water.

The serious citation, and penalties of $19,000, are for the lack of 10-inch high curbs or similar barriers at work areas on Pier 5 at Barbers Point Harbor, where forklifts and other vehicles are used to load and unload ships along the 500-foot-long pier, and for failure to develop and disseminate an adequate emergency action plan for the work site for emergency response should an accident occur.

The willful citation against Hawaii Stevedores includes penalties of $70,000 for failure to provide curbing, or some other barrier along the water side edge of work areas of Pier 1 at Fort Armstrong, where vehicles are used.

After the fatal accident, OSHA took several steps to notify employers and employees of the hazards associated with working near pier edges without curbs. The agency posted a Notice of Imminent Danger at Barbers Point to warn employers not to work with vehicles on the pier until temporary curbing was in place.

OSHA contacted longshoring employers throughout the area in early June to warn them of the danger and advise them that they would be cited if they did not install temporary railing when working on piers without curbs. On June 11, OSHA sent written notice to the companies explaining that it would issue citations to employers who did not comply with the federal regulation. The agency then began conducting inspections of longshoring work sites.

"Our inspections of ship loading companies in the Honolulu area indicated that all were following the regulations and installing temporary railings except for Hawaii Stevedores," said Alan Traenkner, director of enforcement and investigations for OSHA in San Francisco. "In the case of Hawaii Stevedores, the hazards remained despite the fact that OSHA had notified the company of the hazard, and the state of Hawaii Harbor's Division had posted a warning to keep vehicles away."

According to Traenkner, subsequent to the inspections, Hawaii Stevedores and all other ship loading companies have installed effective temporary railings on the piers that will prevent additional accidents until permanent barriers can be erected.

Hawaii Stevedores, Inc. has a history of 15 OSHA inspections since 1990 and has been cited for more than 40 violations, including previous willful citations. Last June, Hawaii Stevedores was cited for willful and serious violations and fined $135,000 following an OSHA investigation into a Dec. 4, 1998, accident that seriously injured an employee who fell more than 30 feet from atop a stack of shipping containers. The employee, and another who also fell but was less seriously hurt, were not provided with required safety equipment to prevent falls.

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