OSHA Issues Army Corps Citations

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2015


A federal agency is facing charges of serious and repeat safety violations that would cost a private sector employer $124,020 in penalties.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received those citations from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Sept. 15. The citations included 21 serious and two repeat violations from March and September inspections at the Soo Locks in Sault Sainte Marie, MI.

Crane, Confined Space Issues

OSHA said in a Sept. 21 statement that the Corps—which is part of the Department of Defense—had workers at the locks who were operating a lattice boom crawler and barge-mounted crane that were in disrepair.

The workers faced dangers from multi-ton loads because the Corps allegedly ignored a September 2014 report from the crane inspector that insisted the cranes were in immediate need of repairs, OSHA said.

The agency, which is part of the Department of Labor and is charged with regulating private-sector employers and other federal agencies, also said Corps workers faced confined-space dangers in the main service tunnel adjacent to the St. Lawrence Seaway.

OSHA also said workers faced hazards in other spaces used to maintain equipment at the historic Soo Locks, which is a national monument that allows boat traffic in Lake Superior to access the lower Great Lakes.

“It can be lethal to expose crane operators to heavy loads and to allow workers to enter tunnels and other confined spaces without proper training,” said Larry Johnson, director of OSHA’s Lansing Area Office, in the statement. “Like private employers, federal agencies must correct safety and health deficiencies immediately. Failing to do so is inexcusable.”

Federal vs. Private Sector

Although OSHA is responsible for inspecting federal agencies for safety and health violations, it cannot fine federal agencies for those violations. Nevertheless, federal agencies are responsible for abating violations that OSHA lists in its citations, OSHA said.

“We don’t issue monetary penalties,” said Scott Allen, who is the regional director for public affairs and media relations in OSHA’s Chicago office. “It would be like taking from the federal government and giving to the federal government.”

Allen said the Corps still can contest the findings and that OSHA would work with them as they would with a private sector employer. However, OSHA expects federal agencies to cooperate and abate the issues.

“OSHA’s main objective is to make sure they abate all of the issues as quickly as possible,” said Allen.

The Citations

During OSHA’s Soo Locks inspection from March 17-18, OSHA cited the Corps with 14 serious violations and one repeat violation. The agency then visited the site again on Sept. 10 and cited the Corps with another seven serious violations and one more repeat violation.

In addition to the crane violations, OSHA said the Corps failed to:

  • Secure and suspend scaffolds correctly;
  • Guard floor openings;
  • Provide stairway handrails;
  • Store gas cylinders properly;
  • Train workers on using fire extinguishers;
  • Inspect slings, cranes and other equipment;
  • Protect workers from machinery operating parts; and
  • Provide adequate respiratory protection.
   

Tagged categories: Confined space; Cranes; Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; OSHA; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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