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May 20, 2010

VT Halter fined $1.3 million by OSHA

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined VT Halter Marine Inc. $1,322,000 following a November 2009 explosion and fire that killed two workers and seriously injured two other workers. The incident occurred in the inner bottom void of a tugboat that was being constructed at the company's Escatawpa, Miss., facility.

Following its investigation, OSHA has cited the shipbuilder for 17 willful and 11 serious violations.

The willful citations are for failing to inspect and test the confined space prior to entry, failing to prevent entry into confined spaces where concentration of flammable vapors exceed the prescribed limits and failing to use explosion proof lighting in a hazardous location. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

The serious violations include a lack of machine guarding, allowing the use of defective electrical equipment, failing to use approved containers for disposing flammable liquids, the lack of a rescue service available for a confined space entry, failing to properly ventilate a confined space, and missing or incomplete guardrails.

Eight other violations also have been issued. These concern record keeping, failing to provide lavatory facilities with tepid running water, failing to ensure workplace floors were free from water accumulation and electrical grounding hazards.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


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