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OSHA Cites Sterling Shipyard for Continuing To Expose Workers To Hazards

July 17, 2014
Texas barge builder Sterling Shipyard has been cited by OSHA for 16 serious, repeat, failure-to-abate safety violations.

Sterling Shipyard LP has been issued 16 serious, repeat and failure-to-abate violations by OSHA for continuing to expose workers to safety hazards, including dangerous machinery, high noise levels without appropriate hearing protection and falls from heights above 6 feet. Proposed penalties total $305,100.

OSHA originally cited the Port Neches barge builder in October 2013 for 13 serious safety and health violations with a fine of $62,550. When Sterling did not respond to the citations, a follow-up inspection was conducted in January 2014 that revealed Sterling had not corrected several of the hazardous conditions previously cited.

“By failing to abate violations cited from an earlier inspection, Sterling chose to ignore worker safety and expose employees to hazards that could lead to illness, injury or death. OSHA will not tolerate such negligence,” said Mark Briggs, OSHA’s area director in the Houston South Area Office.

Sterling was cited for three failure-to-abate violations, with a penalty of $214,200, for continuing to expose workers to machine, struck-by and fall hazards. A failure-to-abate notice applies to a condition, hazard or practice, found upon reinspection, for which the employer was originally cited and was not corrected.

Four repeat violations, with a penalty of $50,400, were cited for failing to equip surfaces 5 feet or higher with guardrails and replace worn and frayed electrical cords. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

“From time to time employers are issued citations and, for whatever reason, manage to lose them before someone in authority is notified and able to timely respond,” said Houston attorney John D. Surma, special counsel at Adams and Reese. “However, when that happens, before taking further measures, OSHA typically calls and writes to determine whether citations were received, whether an abatement certificate was returned, and the like. In light of the seriousness of the citations issued in 2013 and the seriousness of these most recent citations, I am somewhat surprised they were not put into the SVEP [Severe Violators Enforcement Program] program.”

The remaining 12 violations issued to Sterling Shipyard, including nine serious violations with a penalty of $40,500, were cited for failing to train workers who were operating forklifts; to perform regular crane inspections and guard portable machinery; and to provide hearing protection for workers exposed to noise. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The citations can be viewed The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/SterlingShipyard_905493_0711_14.pdf, http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/SterlingShipyard_964993_0711_14.pdf, http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/SterlingShipyard_954493_0711_14.pdf and http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/SterlingShipyard_908918_0711_14.pdf.

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