Naval Station Fatality Results in OSHA Citation

OSHA issued citations and levied fines against a ship-building\r\ncompany, and one of it's subcontractors following an 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 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 Co. (NASSCO).

OSHA fined Action Cleaning of San Diego, Calif., $69,1000 for failing to arrange for the immediate rescue of incapacitated employees in confined spaces. Other violations include: failure to identify and evaluate 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.

OSHA also cited and fined NASSCO with penalties of $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.

Other violations include: failing to post tests, inspections and special instruction; 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.

"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," said OSHA Enforcement and Investigations Director Leonard Limtiaco.

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

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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