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Shipbuilder Cited in 3rd Worker Death

Friday, February 17, 2012

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Three deaths at an Indiana shipyard—including two in four days—have now drawn 46 federal health and safety violations and nearly $200,000 in fines for the facility’s owner.

The totals include nine new Occupational Safety and Health Administration citations, including one willful violation, and $119,000 in fines stemming from the third death at Jeffboat LLC, of Jeffersonville, IN.

 Jeffboat is the largest inland shipbuilder and ship repair facility in the United States

 Photos: American Commercial Lines

Jeffboat, the manufacturing arm of American Commercial Lines, is the largest inland shipbuilder and ship repair facility in the United States.

A subsidiary of American Commercial Lines LLC, Jeffboat is the largest inland shipbuilder and repair facility in the United States and a leading manufacturer of dry cargo, tank barges and special vessels.

“We have had an opportunity to review the citations and are continuing to work closely with OSHA to ensure continuous improvement of our safety performance,” ACL spokeswoman Kim Durbin said in a statement emailed Friday (Feb. 17).

“Jeffboat remains committed to protecting the health and safety our employees.”

Willful Violation

The new OSHA citations, issued Wednesday (Feb. 15), stem from the August 2011 death of electrician Steve Duncan, 54, an 11-year employee who was crushed against a barge while repairing a transfer car that activated unexpectedly.

The willful citation—OSHA’s highest level of infraction—consists of two grouped violations. The first is for failing to properly assemble and install pendant controllers used to operate transfer cars—a problem that apparently allowed water and moisture to enter the controllers, causing corrosion that may have led to the malfunction, OSHA said.

The second violation group is for continuing to use equipment with corroded electrical parts. A willful violation is one committed with “voluntary disregard” for the law or with “plain indifference” to worker safety and health.

Serious Violations

Seven serious violations allege, among other things, failure to:

• Develop and implement lockout procedures involving hazardous energy control equipment;

• Train employees to work safely around and operate transfer cars;

• Inspect transfer cars and ensure that electrical circuits were de-energized before employees worked on them; and

• Provide strain relief on the pendant controllers.

Serious violations reflect “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

One other-than-serious citation involved lack of training on electrical hazards and inadequate use of personal protective equipment.

“Jeffboat has a responsibility to ensure that its employees are properly protected from known workplace hazards,” said Ken Gilbert, OSHA's area director in Indianapolis.

“Failing to ensure workers’ safety and health through appropriate equipment maintenance, training and adherence to OSHA regulations demonstrates a lack of regard for employees' lives and well-being.”

2010 Deaths

Duncan’s death came 15 months after two fatal falls that occurred at the yard in the same week.

On Monday, May 10, 18-year employee Robert Harrison Jr. fell 20 feet to his death while carrying some heavy equipment.

On Thursday, May 13, David Martin, 44, a painter, slipped while carrying working gear up a ladder. Holding the gear prevented Martin from maintaining sufficient contact with the ladder, and he fell 20 to 30 feet, striking a number of pipes on the way down. He was taken off life support the next day.

 Three workers, including a painter, were killed at Jeffboat in 15 months
Three workers, including a painter, were killed at Jeffboat in 15 months. Two perished in falls in the same week.

Both accidents occurred just after a month-long strike by Teamsters employees over health-care benefits.

In the Harrison case, OSHA issued one serious violation (for unguarded deck openings) and one repeat violation (for multiple trip hazards) and issued fines totaling $42,000. Those were reduced to $17,000 in a formal settlement.

In the case of Martin, the painter, OSHA issued 22 serious, two repeat and nine other-than-serious violations and fines totaling $55,905. Two of the serious citations were later dropped, and the total fine reduced to $53,155.

OSHA also inspected Jeffboat shortly after Martin’s death and issued another serious citation. In addition, OSHA cited Jeffboat on four occasions from 2007 to 2009 and issued a total of 16 violations.

Situated on 68 acres with 5,600 feet of waterfront, the shipyard is the largest single-site manufacturing facility for vessels in the United States.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Painters; Shipyards

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/20/2012, 12:00 PM)

I hope this picture of this guy painting was just a photo op, if not these people need serious training on coating application procedures and technique, my heart goes out to the families of the men that have lost there lives at this site

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (2/21/2012, 8:22 AM)

The photo brings two things immediately to mind: 1)Fall protection doesn't work if it's not hooked on. 2) That is some incredibly bad spray application technique.

Comment from Frank Braden, (2/22/2012, 9:14 AM)

Having worked at Jeffboat in 2003 - 2004, I can attest that safety was, perhaps, not of the highest priority to the management at that time. The Friday prior to my termination, I had refused to allow my painters to board a barge due to high water and the danger of climbing and jumping almost 4 feet over open water to land on the barge deck. The yard superintendent was furious. I immediately went to the safety dept. and asked the director to accompany me to look at the situation. He agreed that the access was unsafe and supported my decision to prevent my employees from attempting to board the barge. This was on a Friday, as I stated. My last day was the following Monday. The safety director lasted another month or so. Go figure.

Comment from Jodi Bagodi, (12/28/2013, 7:12 PM)


Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/3/2014, 2:11 PM)

Jodi, my condolences on your loss. Billy’s and Tom’s comments appear to be aimed at the photo in the article, and were not aimed at your brother. The comments from Frank and the company’s record seem to indicate that the company has some major issues with safety.

Comment from Billy Russell, (1/6/2014, 5:49 AM)

Jodi, my comments were in fact not directed in anyway towards the loss of your Brother, and neither was Toms, we are referring to the Photo, is that your Brother in the Photo ??????? Companies have Violations all over the world, it is solely up to us to know we need a harness, and Know we should be tied off, it should never be left up to a company to decide, ever!!!!!!! Blaster's/Coaters we keep each other safe by making a company do the right thing get me a harness, string a safety cable, we make that call because we are the ones at risk, not the guy back in the office !!!!!!!!!

Comment from Michael Deaton, (1/6/2014, 11:25 AM)

any loss of life or fellow brother is devastating. our condolences go out to the families of the 3 men who have died at jeffboat. ive been dealing with painters for 27 years and i can recall countless times where you can look anywhere on the job and see someone not hooked up. painters for some reason think that they are invisible...i am one of them! as a supt.,i do not tolerate not being hooked up. after 1 warning, you WILL go to the house and if it occurs again, you WILL be terminated. we CAN NOT watch another one of our brothers hit the ground.

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