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The Occupational Safety and Health Admini-stration (OSHA) has cited Atlantic Marine for safety violations that led to the death of one worker and injuries to two others. The agency proposed penalties totaling $223,000 for three willful and four serious safety violations at the company’s shipyard in Mobile, AL.
According to Lana Graves, OSHA’s Mobile area director, Atlantic Marine has had 28 inspections since 1972, including three involving fatalities. Inspection of a Mobile accident in 1990 resulted in citations for violations similar to the most recent citations. After being denied entry on the day of the accident, OSHA was permitted on-site the following day, Feb. 15, 1999, to begin an inspection. "The fatality site had been completely dismantled before our investigator was allowed access to the accident scene," Graves says.
Through interviews and observations, OSHA investigators were able to determine that day shift employees had rigged a ship’s steel hull plate for repairs the day prior to the accident. On the day the accident occurred, a five-ton manual chain-fall hoist failed while hoisting the steel plate. It was replaced with a lesser capacity hoist, and the lift continued. At the time of the accident, at least three workers were under the suspended hull plate, which weighed approximately 16 tons. One employee was crushed and two others were injured when the hoists’ load chains broke and the hull plate fell to the floor of the dry dock.
OSHA cited Atlantic Marine for three willful violations with penalties totaling $195,000, for allowing employees to ride on and work under hoist-suspended loads. The company was also cited for failing to ensure that loads were safely rigged before being hoisted so that employees could operate the hoists from a remote or other safe location. Additional penalties totaling $28,000 resulted from four serious related violations.
"We categorized these citations as willful because the employer knew there was a hazard and took no action to protect workers," Graves says. "Even though the company’s employee handbook explicitly prohibited it, our investigation revealed that employees routinely rode on and worked under loads suspended from hoists. In this case, the manner in which the hull plate was rigged required employees to stand on the plate to operate the hoists. In addition, the plate could not be fitted to the hull of the ship without going under the suspended load. With the hoists overloaded, this was a prescription for disaster."
Graves says supervisors, as well as rank and file employees, rode on and worked under hoisted loads routinely even though they were aware of OSHA’s standards and the company’s written prohibitions.
According to the OSHA area director, the industry practice is to use scaffolding or other platforms to raise these type loads when using manual hoists, or to use air tuggers equipped with pendant controls that allow the operator to raise the load from a safe distance. Also, it is industry practice to place shoring underneath the steel plates to support the loads prior to allowing employees to work underneath them.
Atlantic Marine employs 624 workers in Mobile and about 1,050 nationwide. Their Jacksonville, FL, shipyard also performs ship repairs. The company can contest the citations.