OSHA CITES NEW JERSEY-BASED MARINE CONTRACTOR FOR SAFETY VIOLATIONS AFTER FATAL CRANE PLUNGE INTO KENNEBEC RIVER
The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Weeks Marine, Inc. for willful, repeat and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following a fatal accident in which a crane slid off a barge into Maine’s Kennebec River. A total of $360,000 in fines is proposed against the Cranford, New Jersey-based marine construction contractor.
Weeks Marine, Inc. had been contracted to dredge part of the Kennebec River at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. The dredging was performed by a mobile crane situated on a barge. Two employees were working in the crane when it went into the river on December 21, 2000. One worker was rescued, the second worker has not been found and is presumed dead.
“OSHA’s inspection found that the crane had not been secured to the barge, as required by OSHA standards,” said C. William Freeman III, OSHA area director for Maine. “In addition, the company failed to ensure that the crane was operating safely within its manufacturer’s specifications and limitations, failed to repair or replace a malfunctioning swing gear, and failed to have a lifesaving skiff available for immediate use in the event workers went into the river.
“These conditions existed from the onset of the job, almost three weeks before the accident, and the company’s onsite supervisors knew and did nothing to correct these hazards,” he said. “As a result, these violations have been classified as willful, the most severe category of OSHA violation, and the maximum allowed fine — $70,000 — is being proposed for each of these four violations.”
The repeat violation concerned failure to provide workers with a ramp or other safe means of accessing and crossing to and from the barge, the wharf, the float and a towboat. OSHA had twice cited Weeks Marine in 1998 for similar violations at two New York worksites. A $70,000 fine is proposed for this citation.
The serious violations were for failure to keep decks and other working surfaces of the barge clear of ice and snow, and for not removing a defective ladder from service. $10,000 in fines are proposed for these items.
“Securing a mobile crane to a barge is a basic, well-known safeguard that must be utilized on each and every job where it’s required,” said Freeman. “If the company had provided and ensured this vital and necessary protection, this accident could have been avoided. No job, no deadline, no excuse, is worth the loss of a human life.”
Freeman urged Maine employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA offices in Bangor (207-941-8177) or Portland (207-780-3178).
He added that OSHA’s toll-free, nationwide hotline — 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742) — may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours. Another source of information on OSHA safety and health standards is the agency’s website: http://www.osha.gov/index.html.
A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.
A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
A repeat violation is issued by OSHA when an employer has been previously cited for a substantially similar hazards and that citation and its penalties have become final.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.
Category: Accident Report