Port Neches shipyard hit with OSHA penalties

JULY 14, 2014 — Port Neches, Texas, barge builder Sterling Shipyard LP has been cited for 16 serious, repeat and failure-to-abate violations by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for continuing to expose workers to safety hazards, including dangerous machinery, high noise levels without appropriate hearing protection and falls from heights above 6 feet.

Proposed penalties total $305,100.

OSHA had originally cited the shipyard in October 2013 for 13 serious safety and health violations with a fine of $62,550. When Sterling did not respond to the citations, a follow-up inspection was conducted in January 2014 that, says OSHA, revealed Sterling had not corrected several of the hazardous conditions previously cited.

"By failing to abate violations cited from an earlier inspection, Sterling chose to ignore worker safety and expose employees to hazards that could lead to illness, injury or death. OSHA will not tolerate such negligence," said Mark Briggs, OSHA's area director in the Houston South Area Office.

Sterling was cited for three failure-to-abate violations, with a penalty of $214,200, for continuing to expose workers to machine, struck-by and fall hazards. A failure-to-abate notice applies to a condition, hazard or practice, found upon reinspection, for which the employer was originally cited and was not corrected.

Four repeat violations, with a penalty of $50,400, were cited for failing to equip surfaces 5 feet or higher with guardrails and replace worn and frayed electrical cords. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

The remaining 12 violations, including nine serious with a penalty of $40,500, were cited for failing to train workers who were operating forklifts; to perform regular crane inspections and guard portable machinery; and to provide hearing protection for workers exposed to noise. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.