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OSHA Cites Shipyard After January Explosion

Friday, August 3, 2018

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Over half a year after a deadly explosion on the towboat William E. Strait, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a citation against ship repair contractor First Marine, which includes over 12 serious violations related to the incident that killed three workers and injured five others.

According to OSHA, an employee left an oxy-acetylene gas hose line in an enclosed area on the ship, which was docked outside of Calvert City, Kentucky, for repairs. The explosion occurred Jan. 19.

Incident Details

When the employee left the hose, they had disconnected the torch from the end of the line. When the explosion occurred, oxygen and propylene—a flammable gas sometimes used as an alternative to acetylene—for the hose lines were discovered turned on without the torch attached. OSHA’s investigation also determined that employees were cutting and welding in an area that contained flammable gases.

"This tragedy could have been prevented if the employers had followed proper confined-space procedures and implemented appropriate safety measures," said OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt A. Petermeyer.

The injured were Javier Fuenes, Wilson Madrid, Billy Counts, James Lang and Tyler Wedington. Those killed included Timothy Wright, 52; Jerome Smith, 56; and Quentin J. Stewart, 41.

The William E. Strait is a 200-foot-long twin-screw towboat built in 1955. After a collision near Memphis in 2015, the boat sank and was later salvaged.

OSHA Citations

OSHA issued citations to five companies, totaling 55 violations with proposed penalties adding up to $795,254. Those cited include: “First Marine LLC; insulation contractor Thermal Control and Fabrication Inc.; temporary staffing companies Hutco Inc. and Day Help LLC (doing business as Wise Staffing Group); and blasting and painting contractor Joe Rupcke,” according to the agency.

Citiations included: failing to test confined spaces before anyone entered; failing to label chemical containers; training workers in confined area entry operations; “exposing employees to asphyxiation, fire, explosion, chemical, trip, and drowning hazards; and allowing hot work/welding to be performed without testing for an explosive atmosphere.”

Citations specific to First Marine include the employer’s failure to provide a place of work free from recognized hazards that could cause death or serious injury; the hose-related issue; a lack of adequate guardrails around the edges of platforms more than 5 feet above a solid surface; and a failure to place hoses and cords in areas that would prevent injury to employees, among other violations.

Citations issued against painting contractor Joe Rupcke include the employer failing to appoint “one or more shipyard-competent persons”; the employer allegedly did not ensure that freshly painted, non-ventilated spaces were inspected to determine oxygen in the atmosphere; and there was no visual inspection or testing of spaces that contain flammable materials to determine the presence of these materials, among other charges.

OSHA has listed First Marine in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

"As a company and as individuals, we take our safety responsibilities very seriously, and we have rededicated ourselves to maintaining a safe workplace," said Jason Straight, VP of operations for First Marine. "We already have implemented safety enhancements as the result of what we have learned from our own investigation."

Contact information for painting contractor Rupcke was not immediately available as of press time.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Health and safety; OSHA; Ships and vessels

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