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WI Shipyard Faces Fines After Burn Incident

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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A Wisconsin shipyard that made headlines last year after exposing workers to lead and other hazards has settled with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration over another case, in which an employee performing “hot work” suffered burns that ultimately proved fatal.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, Fraser Shipyards, of Superior, Wisconsin, has agreed to pay $7,530 and take measures to improve safety at its facilities in the wake of the Feb. 6 incident, in which veteran shipyard worker Joseph Burch suffered serious burns. Burch reportedly died earlier this month due to complications from the injuries.

Roger Blough
Images: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Burch was injured while hot work, involving open flames or sparks, was being performed on the Roger Blough; he later died of complications from the injuries.

According to OSHA’s enforcement database, the workplace-safety agency had originally proposed fines of $12,548 for the single “serious” violation, but after an informal settlement, the total was reduced.

BusinessNorth reports that Fraser issued a statement saying that it has instituted new safety procedures requiring any worker who might encounter sparks or flames to wear fire-retardant suits.

Burn Incident

Burch was injured while hot work, involving open flames or sparks, was being performed on the Roger Blough, a Great Lakes freighter that was undergoing work at Fraser. The ship ran aground last spring, suffering a reported $4.5 million in damages, and in the summer was sent to another shipyard, in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for repairs.

The Roger Blough, launched in 1972, was the site of another tragedy during its construction in 1971, in which four workers—two paint chippers and two welders, according to a report from United Press International at the time—were killed in a fire.

Exposure Fines

Fraser Shipyards recently faced much steeper OSHA fines, to the tune of $700,000, due to the exposure of workers on another vessel to lead, other heavy metals and asbestos. The shipyard settled with OSHA in January, reducing its fines, which were originally proposed at nearly $1.4 million.

Herbert C. Jackson

Fraser Shipyards was hit with $700,000 in OSHA fines related to exposure of employees to lead, heavy metals and asbestos on the freigher Herbert C. Jackson.

Fraser oversaw the re-powering of the Herbert C. Jackson, a 690-foot Great Lakes freighter, a $10 million project that began in January 2016. That March, the job was halted when an OSHA inspection uncovered lead paint; remediation was called for, and Fraser offered lead level screenings for employees on the project.

After elevated lead levels were found in a small sample of employees, further testing found that more than 75 percent of 120 employees who were tested had elevated blood lead levels. According to OSHA, some workers were exposed to lead at up to 20 times permissible levels.

In May, a worker filed suit against the shipyard, alleging exposure to lead and other toxins during work inside the 57-year-old vessel. That suit is still pending, with a trial date reportedly set in 2018.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Asbestos; Health & Safety; Lead; North America; OSHA; Ships and vessels; Shipyards; Violations

Comment from Michael Maillis, (4/26/2017, 3:35 AM)

As a former employee of American Bureau of Shipping I can attest to the lack of safety precautions in the US Great Lakes fleet maintenance in many areas including fall protection offered to ship surveyor


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