OSHA Cites Ship Repair Yard After Deadly Explosion

The William E. Strait (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 07-27-2018 07:08:04

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited ship repair contractor First Marine, a division of Western River Boat Management, with more than a dozen serious violations related to the deadly explosion on the towboat William E. Strait. The blast, which occured January 19, killed three workers and injured five others. 

According to OSHA's citations, an employee left an oxy-acetylene gas hose line in an enclosed space on the Strait between January 17 and January 19. The individual had disconnected the torch from the end of the line, OSHA asserted, and on the day of the explosion, the "oxygen and propylene for the hose lines was discovered turned on without a torch attached to the line." Propylene is a flammable gas used as an alternative to acetylene.

OSHA's most serious allegations contend that First Marine allowed employees to enter work spaces where flammable gas was present, without proper training and without prior testing of the space to ensure their safety. Each of these three "willful" charges is accompanied by a proposed fine of $130,000. 

Other alleged violations included leaving gas hose lines in an enclosed space unattended, failing to test an enclosed space to ensure that it is safe for hot work, failing to provide contractors with all information on work area hazards, lack of a designated shipyard competent person and a variety of training shortcomings. Altogether, the penalties come to more than $520,000. OSHA also listed First Marine in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).

Capt. Jason Straight, the firm's VP of operations, said in a statement that First Marine is committed to safety. "As a company and as individuals, we take our safety responsibilities very seriously, and we have re-dedicated ourselves to maintaining a safe workplace," he said. "We already have implemented safety enhancements as the result of what we have learned from our own investigation."

OSHA also cited four other companies with additional violations, including insulation contractor Thermal Control and Fabrication Inc.; temporary staffing companies Hutco Inc. and Day Help LLC (doing business as Wise Staffing Group); and blasting and painting contractor Joe Rupcke. Proposed fines for these contractors came to a combined $275,000. 

"This tragedy could have been prevented if the employers had followed proper confined space procedures and implemented appropriate safety measures," said OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt A. Petermeyer in a statement.