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Bath Iron Faces 3rd Major OSHA Case

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

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For the third time in recent years, one of the nation’s oldest and best-known shipyards is facing double-digit citations and a six-digit federal fine for a wide variety of repeat and serious safety hazards to workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Bath Iron Works, a General Dynamics company, for 18 violations at its Bath shipyard in Maine. The shipbuilder faces a total of $171,300 in proposed fines following a safety inspection by OSHA’s Augusta Area Office.

 The company faces citations for a wide variety of hazards, including improper paint storage, use of defective gear, trip hazards and lack of fall protection.

 Photos: Bath Iron Works

The company faces citations for a wide variety of hazards, including improper paint storage, use of defective gear, trip hazards and lack of fall protection.

The inspection was conducted under OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting Program and a local emphasis program focusing on hazards in shipbuilding and repair.

Several of the new citations reflect repeat hazards. In 2007, the shipyard was cited for 71 violations and fined $445,000, including a $55,000 fine for a willful violation. The case was closed in 2010 with 54 citations (27 serious, 12 repeat, 14 other-than-serious and one unclassified) and a $275,000 fine.

In 2005, the shipyard was cited for 55 violations (29 serious, 10 repeat and 16 “other”) and fined $124,300—a case that was eventually settled for 31 violations (13 serious, seven repeat and 11 “other”) and a $57,000 fine.

The shipyard was also cited again in December 2011 for one serious crane violation and fined $4,000.

Serious, Repeat Violations

The recent inspection identified a variety of fall, mechanical and electrical hazards that included:

• Improperly stored paint;

• Lack of fall protection;

• Unguarded roof edges and floor holes and openings;

• An unqualified employee operating a three-ton crane;

• Improper ladder use;

• Use of damaged heaters, exposed electrical sheathing and defective lifting slings;

• Uninspected lift trucks;

• Lack of assessment for personal protective equipment;

• Unguarded electrical equipment; and

• Walkways cluttered with equipment, materials, boards, hoses, cords, cables and other trip hazards.

The citations note one injury: a mechanic who was hit in the head with the rim of a truck tire that had not been properly deflated before repair.

The three repeat citations carry $93,500 in fines; the 15 serious violations, $77,800 in fines.

A serious violation reflects substantial probability of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A repeat violation exists when an employer has been cited for a similar violation within five years.

Focus on Shipbuilding, Ship Repair

“We’ve focused on this industry, because establishments primarily engaged in ship- and boat-building and repair in the state of Maine have higher-than-average injury and illness rates,” said William Coffin, OSHA’s area director for Maine.

“A proactive, sustained, effective and ongoing effort by employers to identify and eliminate hazards such as these is necessary for employees’ safety and well-being.”

 Bath Iron Works’ shipyard on the Kennebec River has been in continuous service since the late 19th century.
Bath Iron Works’ shipyard on the Kennebec River has been in continuous service since the late 19th century.

Located on the Kennebec River in Bath, ME, Bath Iron Works was founded in 1884. The shipyard has designed, built and repaired private, commercial and military vessels, including battleships, frigates, cruisers and destroyers. Since 1995, Bath Iron Works has been a subsidiary of General Dynamics.

Company Responds

In a statement issued Wednesday (April 4), Bath Iron Works said it had taken “immediate action” to “correct items identified during the inspection and all items have since been abated.”

The company is reviewing the report and plans to request an informal conference with OSHA to discuss the inspection results, said company spokesman Jim DeMartini.

“The safety of our employees is a top priority at BIW, and programs instituted over the last several years have enabled us to make good progress in reducing workplace injuries and ensuring compliance with applicable regulations,” said DeMartini. “We will continue to emphasize safety in all aspects of our business and work with OSHA to further enhance the effectiveness of these programs.”

   

Tagged categories: Fall protection; Health and safety; Marine; OSHA; Paint storage; Personal protective equipment; Shipyards

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