A painter who lost consciousness while spray painting inside a tugboat “very easily” could have died in the incident, say federal authorities who have fined the employer nearly $73,000 for the episode.
|Senesco Marine, which provides shipbuilding and repair services, was targeted under an OSHA program that targets workplaces with above-average injury rates.|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued multiple citations and separate fines against painting contractor AMEX Inc. and Senesco Marine in North Kingstown, RI, a shipyard where AMEX was working at the time.
The two inspections were conducted May 26 at the same location but involve different employers, conditions and violations, OSHA said.
Painter Overcome by Vapors
In the case against AMEX Inc., of East Boston, MA, OSHA issued citations for 12 serious violations and one other-than-serious violation and proposed a fine of $72,900.
OSHA said the employee had been overcome by paint vapors while spray painting inside a tugboat and was rescued by the local fire department. OSHA’s inspection found that AMEX failed to institute and follow required precautions for confined-space work.
"This could very easily have been a fatality," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's Rhode Island area director.
"Confined spaces are characterized by toxic, oxygen-deficient or flammable atmospheres that can be deadly for employees working in those spaces. No worker should ever enter a confined space until the atmosphere has been tested, proper respiratory protection is supplied and used, and adequate rescue procedures are in place."
Specifically, OSHA alleges that AMEX did not:
• Adequately check for hazardous conditions inside the confined space;
• Test the atmosphere for toxic or flammable vapors before the worker entered;
• Provide confined-space training for employees entering the space; or
• Supply workers with the proper respiratory protection, fit-testing and safe ventilation equipment.
Serious violations are those that carry a “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which an employer knew, or should have known.
The other-than-serious violation alleged incomplete illness and injury record-keeping.
AMEX has no prior record with OSHA, and no one at the company was immediately available for comment Friday (Dec. 2).
OSHA details information on confined space hazards and proper work procedures on its website.
Information specific to confined space work in shipyards at is also available.
Shipyard: OSHA History
Meanwhile, OSHA fined the shipyard $62,700 for one repeat and eight serious safety violations for a variety of mechanical, electrical and exit hazards.
Those citations followed an inspection conducted under OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting Program, which focuses on workplaces with higher-than-average rates of workdays lost to illness and injury.
Senesco Marine has an active history with OSHA. Agency documents list these closed cases since 2007:
• May 2011: One serious violation and a fine of $1,275 (halved from the original penalty);
• March 2011: Two serious and two other-than-serious violations, with a fine of $5,000 (halved from the original penalty);
• December 2009: Four serious violations and a fine of $4,900 (reduced from $8,775);
• January 2008: Three serious and one other-than-serious health violation, with a fine of $3,570 (reduced from $5,100);
• January 2008: 14 serious safety violations, with a fine of $27,825 (reduced from $39,750); and
• September 2007: Three serious violations, with a fine of $8,000 (reduced from $12,000).
Serious, Repeat Violations
The new serious violations include:
• A locked emergency exit;
• An inadequately guarded grinder;
• An ungrounded electrical cord;
• Lack of an emergency eyewash;
• An unattended powered industrial truck left with its motor running and brake not secured; and
• Failure to provide annual respirator fit-testing to the company's emergency response team.
The repeat violation, with a fine of $27,500, is for unguarded points of operation on a press brake and an ironworker machine. OSHA cited similar hazards at the shipyard after a 2007 inspection.
A repeat violation exists when an employer has been cited for the same or a similar violation within five years.
"Left uncorrected, these conditions expose workers to potential crushing and 'struck-by' injuries, lacerations, amputations, electric shock and being unable to exit the workplace swiftly in the event of a fire or other emergency," said Griffin.
"For the safety and health of its employees, this employer needs to correct these hazards and take effective steps to ensure that they do not occur again."
Senesco Marine did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Each company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.