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Diver Death Prompts $300K Fine

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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Nearly $300,000 in proposed penalties have been levied against a marine construction company in Florida after an untrained worker was killed while diving to do underwater construction work, federal safety regulators announced. 

The untrained worker, with Lucas Marine Acquisition Co. LLC, died last August while doing surface supplied-air diving during underwater construction activities for the City of Fort Pierce Marina storm protection project.

Lucas Marine, headquartered in Stuart, FL, was cited for 22 safety violations, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday (Feb. 5).

Proposed penalties total $290,000.

Company is 'Severe Violator'

The company provides marine construction services for docks, marinas, bridges, water control structures, stormwater drainage improvements and civil construction, according to its website

underwater construction Fort Pierce

Following the death of an untrained diver performing underwater construction, OSHA has cited Lucas Marine Acqusition for 22 alleged safety violations and $290,000 in proposed penalties.

The project involved in this case is designed to protect the Fort Pierce Marina's inner and outer harbors and waterfront properties from a 100-year storm event. Several islands are being built to provide a protective barrier.

The islands are built by placing limestone rock-filled marine mattresses to outline the shape of the island, which are then lined with fabric and covered with bedding stone and large rocks. 

The alleged willful violations found at Lucas Marine’s site have landed the company in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities or job sites.

“Lucas Marine intentionally disregarded safety standards and sent construction workers underwater without proper training and without adequate equipment,” said Condell Eastmond, OSHA’a area director in Fort Lauderdale.

“A worker should not have to sacrifice their life to earn a paycheck.”

The company did not respond to a request for comment on the citations.

Fatal work injuries in Florida accounted for 209 of the 4,383 fatal work injuries reported in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

22 Violations Cited 

Lucas Marine was cited for three willful violations for the employer’s failure to:

  • Ensure workers performing underwater diving operations had adequate experience and training to perform the work safely ($70,000);
  • Provide employees engaged in diving operations with two-way voice communications for emergency assistance ($70,000); and
  • Ensure the designated person-in-charge was trained and had experience with planning, performing and overseeing dive operations safely ($70,000).

A willful violation, according to OSHA, is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Lucas Marine Acquisition

OSHA also inspected the company in March 2013 after a worker died when he was struck by a front-end loader for barges. Lucas Marine settled for a $2,000 fine.

OSHA also assessed 12 serious violations, or those that occur when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard the employer knew or should have known about.

The serious violations were cited for the employer’s failure to:

  • Provide CPR training for members of the dive team or workers engaged in diving operations ($7,000);
  • Develop and maintain a safe practices manual to address safety and health issues for employees engaged in diving operations ($7,000);
  • Provide a first-aid book or bag-type manual resuscitator at the dive location ($3,000);
  • Assess the hazards of the underwater conditions or brief the dive team members on the hazards ($7,000);
  • Inspect air compressors, filters or a regulator ($7,000);
  • Display the international code flag “A” at the dive location during operations in an area with marine vessel traffic ($7,000);
  • Provide an independent, backup surface supply air during hazardous underwater diving operations ($7,000);
  • Provide dive team members who were using a surface supplied air compressor equipped with a volume tank with a check valve on the inlet side, a pressure gauge, a relief valve and a drain valve, to perform underwater operations ($7,000);
  • Test the air purity of breathing air supplied to divers by a dive compressor ($7,000);
  • Provide an air hose with a rated bursting pressure at least equal to four times the working pressure during underwater diving operations ($7,000);
  • Provide the employee diver with a kink-resistant airline during dive operations ($7,000); and
  • Equip the diver with a safety harness ($7,000).

Seven other-than-serious violations, which carry no penalty, were cited for not recording the dive team members for each operation; not recording the date, time and location of each diving operation; not recording surface or underwater conditions; not recording the maximum depth and bottom time for each dive; not providing the diver with an umbilical marked in 10-foot increments; not providing divers with gauges indicating river depth; and not providing a timekeeping device for dives.

Earlier Worker Death

OSHA last inspected the company in March 2013 and issued one serious and one other-than-serious citation after an employee died after being struck by a front-end loader that loaded barges.

In September 2013, Lucas Marine entered into a settlement agreement with OSHA and paid $2,000 in penalties for the serious violation of failing to protect a 500-gallon portable steel tank containing diesel fuel from collision damage by a front-end loader.

Lucas Marine has 15 business days from receiving the latest citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. 


Tagged categories: Construction; Fatalities; Health and safety; Marine; OSHA

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