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OSHA Probes 3rd Death at Shipyard

Monday, August 22, 2011

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Federal authorities are investigating the death of a Jeffboat maintenance employee—the third worker killed at the Ohio River shipyard since May 2010, when two employees fell to their deaths in one week.

The fatality record is worse than any other shipyard under the Occupational Safety Health Administration’s regional purview, OSHA area director Kenneth Gilbert said Monday (Aug. 22). Although Indiana has its own state OSHA office, federal OSHA has jurisdiction over all maritime cases, Gilbert said.

 Jeffboat shipyard

 American Commercial Lines

Jeffboat is the nation’s largest inland shipbuilder and repair facility.

Jeffboat, owned by American Commercial Lines, has temporarily suspended production at the facility until management and union employees conduct review exercises to prevent future injuries, WHAS11 News reported Monday. Production is expected to resume later this week.

Fatal Crushing

In Friday’s accident, Steve Duncan, 54, of Pekin, IN, was repairing a machine called a “buggy” when it somehow activated, raising him on its jack and crushing him against a barge. Duncan, an electrician, had worked at the shipyard for 11 years.

Clark County Coroner Edwin Coots told the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal that Duncan had died of compressional asphyxia and blunt-force trauma.

An OSHA inspector has been to the site but has not yet determined how the accident occurred, Gilbert said.

American Commercial Lines said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened by the loss of a member of our Jeffboat team, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his co-workers during this difficult time.”

2 Deaths, 1 Week

The Jeffersonville, IN, facility was cited by OSHA on three occasions in May 2010: twice after fatal accidents and once following a general inspection conducted a week after the second accident.

In the first fatality May 10, Gilbert said, one worker had been welding on deck when “somehow or other, the equipment [that the worker was using] went overboard and it was attached to him.” The worker fell about 20 feet to the pavement below.

That case originally involved one serious and one repeat violation related to guard rails and trip hazards and a total fine of $42,000, but the case was settled in March 2011 for a $17,000 penalty.

The company was also placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections for what the agency calls “recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.”

One week later, on May 17, a Jeffboat worker was climbing a ladder while hand-carrying several pieces of equipment, despite a company policy against that practice. The employee slipped, fell, hit his head and died, Gilbert said. The incident resulted in one serious violation by OSHA and a $5,000 fine.

The general inspection, on May 24, resulted initially in 33 safety citations and $55,905 in fines. The case was settled in November for 31 citations and a $53,155 fine.

OSHA also cited Jeffboat on four occasions—with a total of 16 violations—from 2007 to 2009.

The company did not respond Monday to a request for comment about its safety record.

Company Changes

Jeffboat is the manufacturing arm of American Commercial Lines, the nation’s largest inland shipbuilder and repair facility. Jeffboat occupies 68 acres of land and 5,600 feet of frontage on the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, IN.

In December 2010, Platinum Equity, a private investment company, bought ACL for $777 million.

In March, Jeffboat recalled 200 laid-off employees to work, bringing its workforce to about 815 employees, who are represented by Teamsters Union Local 89.

On Aug. 1, Platinum announced that Mark Knoy would become president and CEO of ACL, succeeding interim president Paul Bridwell, who had been filling in for former president Michael Ryan.

Knoy had been president of AEP River Operations. His first day at Jeffboat was Thursday (Aug. 18).

ACL operates some 2,500 barges and 130 towboats. The Jeffboat LLC subsidiary is the second-largest manufacturer of dry cargo, tank barges, and special vessels in the United States.

The facility, on 86 acres with 5,600 feet of waterfront, is the largest single-site manufacturing facility for vessels in the United States, offering advanced marine design and manufacturing capabilities for both inland and ocean service vessels.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Construction; Fatalities; Health and safety; Maintenance coating work; OSHA; Shipyards; Violations

Comment from George McCormic, (8/23/2011, 6:53 AM)

What a wasted loss of life. Something is definitely wrong at this facility.

Comment from mark wileczek, (8/23/2011, 7:51 AM)

sounds like OSHA needs to set up an office in this facility or have this owner hire a full staff of CSP'S

Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (8/23/2011, 1:16 PM)

Sounds like a LOTO infringement - failure to isolate the energy source. Incidents such as this reveal serious flaws in this company's Safety Program. Root cause should identify the management barriers preventing viable implementation of energy isolation precautions, supervisor accountability and the like.

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