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October 20, 2008

Connecticut shipyard faces hefty OSHA fines

A shipyard that earlier this year agreed a major settlement in an environmental case, now faces a large fine for alleged workplace health and safety failings.

Thames Shipyard and Repair Co., a New London, Conn., shipyard and repair facility, faces $108,000 in proposed fines from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after being cited for 43 alleged serious violations of safety and health standards.

On January 15 this year, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that the shipyard and related companies had agreed to pay a substantial penalty and perform environmental protection projects to resolve several violations of environmental laws and regulations. The settlement in that case was worth $747,011 of which $178,700 was to be paid directly to the state and the remaining $568,311 to be in the form of Supplemental Environmental Projects to improve the shipyard property and the vital surrounding environment. The settlement resolved a broad array of violations regarding the storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous waste; discharges to the Thames River of wastewaters and stormwater; air pollution; and maintenance of certain coastal structures such as docks and barges without proper authorization.

The OSHA citations and fines follow safety and health inspections conducted under an OSHA program that targets inspections to workplaces with higher than average injury and illness rates. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

"The breadth and number of hazardous conditions cited at this workplace reflect the need for this employer to take aggressive, effective and ongoing action to identify, address and eliminate them," said C. William Freeman III, OSHA's area director in Hartford. "Left uncorrected, these conditions expose employees to the ongoing threats of electrocution, lacerations, amputations, fires, falls, chemical burns, hearing loss and crushing hazards."

Specifically, OSHA identified numerous instances of electrical hazards including inadequate personal protective equipment; ungrounded, exposed, damaged or misused electric cords or equipment; no electric safety-related work practices program; and lack of such training for the company's electrician. There also were several instances of unguarded saws, grinders and milling machines; not removing a damaged powered industrial truck from service; excess air pressure in a cleaning hose; and no radius indicator for a crane boom.

Other cited conditions included not implementing a hearing conservation program for employees exposed to excess noise levels, an incomplete respiratory protection program and not providing medical evaluations to all employees who wear respirators, an incomplete bloodborne pathogen exposure control program, welding deficiencies, lack of fall protection, improper storage of compressed gas cylinders, improper dispensing of a flammable liquid, inadequate hazard communication and no exposure determination for employees exposed to hexavalent chromium.

Detailed safety and health information about ship repair and shipyard work, including associated hazards, safe work practices and an interactive e-Tool, is available to employers and employees online at www.osha.gov/SLTC/shipbuildingrepair/index.html.

Thames Shipyard and Repair Co. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to meet with OSHA or to contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. This inspection was conducted by OSHA's Hartford Area Office; telephone 860-240-3152.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.

Thames Shipyard's response to the OSHA allegations can be read HERE


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