The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined a Mississippi shipbuilder $1,322,000 following a November 2009 confined space explosion and fire that killed two workers and seriously injured two others, according to a May 19, 2010 announcement from OSHA. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The explosion and fire occurred when workers were using a solvent-borne wash thinner, commonly used in painting preparation work, to remove grease and contaminants from weld seams in the inner bottom void of a tugboat, according to an official from OSHA’s Jackson, Miss. Area Office, which investigated the incident. The boat was being built at the Escatawpa, Miss. facility of the shipbuilder, VT Halter. In addition to the two workers who died, two workers received third-degree burns.
Following its investigation, OSHA has cited the company for 17 willful and 11 serious violations. The willful citations are for failing to inspect and test the confined space prior to entry, failing to prevent entry into confined spaces where concentration of flammable vapors exceed the prescribed limits, and failing to use explosion-proof lighting in a hazardous location. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.
The serious violations include not having machine guarding, allowing the use of defective electrical equipment, failing to use approved containers for disposing of flammable liquids, not having a rescue service available for a confined space entry, failing to properly ventilate a confined space, and missing or incomplete guardrails. A serious citation is issued 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.
OSHA also issued eight other-than-serious violations. These concern recordkeeping, failing to provide lavatory facilities with tepid running water, failing to ensure workplace floors were free from water accumulation, and electrical grounding hazards.
For information about OSHA enforcement: www.osha.gov.