Tide of OSHA Fines, Violations Sweeps over Surfside Beach

OSHA issues three serious citations following the death of a Surfside Beach, S.C., firefighter from a heart attack. His chief is placed on probation for allowing the results of the firefighter's physical to sit unread on his desk.\r\n

A firefighter is dead of a heart attack and the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation''s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) blames his employer, the Surfside Beach Fire Department. The agency fined the department $2,100 for three serious violations found during the investigation of the death of Assistant Chief Tom Andersen.

According to OSHA, the department should not have allowed Andersen to continue to fight fires because he failed a physical. On Jan. 21, while fighting a fire, Andersen collapsed and died of a heart attack. OSHA also found the department''s respiratory program did not meet state standards; a firefighter was permitted to fight a fire without proper fit-testing for the respirator he was wearing; and 16 firefighters were not fit-tested for respirators within the required 12-month period.

Town Administrator Michael Kovacs, saying there were some administrative problems going on in the fire department, admitted that only two firefighters were responsible for implementing state fire department regulations. One was Andersen, and the other is Chief Dan Thomas, who has been placed on probation for allowing the results of Andersen''s physical to sit unread on his desk for weeks.

The fire department avoided heavier fines because of it cooperated with the investigation and it has a good safety history with OSHA, said Jim Knight, OSHA spokesman in Columbia.

"OSHA''s goal is to identify and eliminate workplace hazards that could lead to serious injury or death, as opposed to just collecting penalties," said Knight.

Surfside Beach has 20 days to appeal to the state OSHA review board or pay the penalties. Kovacs said the town hopes to get the fine reduced.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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