Shipper Racks Up Violations


A marine terminal operator’s safety hazards were so egregious that a state agency briefly shut down part of its operations and cited the company with what the agency said is one of its largest fines in years.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) found more than 50 violations when it inspected Seattle-based Seattle Bulk Shipping Inc., the agency said in a July 30 statement. The shipping company now faces nearly $425,000 in health and safety fines.

Worker Fall Tips off Agency

L&I began its investigation after an employee fell into an underground grain storage pit in December 2014. During those inspections, the agency discovered that the company had inadequate emergency response planning for an ethanol transfer operation. One of the shipping company’s operations at the facility was transferring “large quantities” of ethanol fuel from rail cars to transfer trucks.

Because of the lack of an emergency response plan, L&I immediately shut down Seattle Bulk Shipping’s ethanol transferring until the problem could be corrected. The agency said not only were workers at risk, but also the general public was at risk because the West Seattle Bridge crosses over the company’s facility.

L&I worked with the company and the Seattle Fire Marshal’s office to ensure the company had corrected the gaps in emergency response training before it allowed the ethanol transfer to resume, the agency said.

Citations and Company's Appeal

L&I sent Seattle Bulk Shipping two citations for the violations: one for the safety issues, which the company received on June 23; and one for the health issues, which it received July 16. The penalties in the citations total $424,850.

The company appealed the safety citation on July 6. It had until Thursday (Aug. 6) to file an appeal on the health issues.

Dale Frazier, president of Seatle Bulk Shipping, said in an email sent Thursday that the company would be appealing the health citations. He also said the company's attorney had sent a notice of contest and a request for a stay of abatement pending the outcome of the appeal.

"We are confident we will be successful on all counts," Frazier said.

Ongoing Issues

Meanwhile, the agency found employees regularly exposed to hazards that “could cause death or serious injuries or illnesses,” L&I said in its statement. As a result, the agency cited Seattle Bulk Shipping for 59 total violations, including five willful; 33 serious; two “failure to abate,” for not correcting previously discovered problems; and 19 general.

Among the 33 serious violations were several confined space violations, the agency said. Some of the other penalties were:

  • Not ensuring personal protective equipment was available to use during an emergency response to a possible ethanol fuel release, willful, $21,000;
  • Not establishing an employee alarm system to provide warning time for a safe escape in an emergency, such as an ethanol fuel release, serious, $63,000 (previously cited in 2010);
  • Not developing a written emergency response plan to address a possible ethanol fuel spill, serious, $63,000 (previously cited in 2010);
  • Using chain slings without identification attached to lift loads beyond their rated capacity, willful, $45,500;
  • Modifying a powered-industrial truck to increase its load capacity by strapping concrete blocks onto the back end of the machine, willful, $45,500;
  • Not ensuring that all operators were trained to safely operate PITs, willful, $45,500; and
  • Not ensuring that all PITs were maintained in safe working order, including some of the trucks not having seat belts, willful, $45,500.

A review of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration website indicated that Seattle Bulk Shipping had received at least four safety inspections since 2011, including the two most recent from L&I.

© / HHakim

The marine terminal operator also briefly had to shut down its ethanol transfer service because it did not have a written emergency response plan.

OSHA’s list also includes an inspection in March 2014, in which the company received nine serious violations and one “other” violation. For the seven violations that carried penalties, the company received $7,600 in fines.

L&I said the company has been placed in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which means it will receive future inspections to ensure the issues have been corrected.

About the Company

According to its website, Seattle Bulk Shipping specializes in containerized transferring and loading with experience in the import/export business. It partners with Carson Oil Co. to provide the ethanol transfer service and said it has the capability of transferring bulk products from containers/super sacks into hopper railcars.

The company bills itself as the “largest container bulk transloader in the Pacific Northwest.”


Tagged categories: Accidents; Confined space; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Labor; North America; Oil and Gas; OSHA; OSHA; Rail; Railcars; Safety equipment; Violations

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