Columbia Assn. Faces Charges In Employee Drowning

Working Conditionssaid To Seriously Violate State Code

June 12, 1991|By Elizabeth Lean | Elizabeth Lean,Contributing writer

Dangerous conditions at the site where a Columbia Association employee drowned last March have prompted state officials to charge the association with "serious" violations of the occupational safety code, the chief of code enforcement said Monday.

The CA faces at least three serious charges relating to working conditions at Lake Elkhorn onMarch 28, the day maintenance worker Michael Hubbard fell from a canoe and drowned, said Craig Lowry, chief enforcement officer for Maryland Occupational Safety and Health.

He said a serious violation is one that results in "substantial probability of death or serious harm." The charges follow a MOSH investigation of the drowning.

The CA faces fines of "about $600" for each serious violation, Lowry said. He was unable to provide the totalsum of the penalties MOSH has imposed.

Hubbard, 21, and 23-year-old co-worker William Whitehead III, both of Carroll County, had been in the canoe to paint the underside of a dock on the morning of March28, according to police.

During a work break, the two men paddledthe canoe away from the dock, and the craft capsized in cold, choppywater, police said.

Whitehead swam to shore, but Hubbard drowned despite rescue attempts,

police said.

Lowry said the canoe was "not of sufficient size and weight capacity" for the job's demands, that the two men were not wearing life jackets, and they did not have ready access to a ring buoy -- all "clear and specific violations" ofthe state code."

The CA, which maintains Columbia's recreational facilities, has challenged the agency's findings, Lowry said.

Attorneys for the state and for the CA will argue the case before an administrative judge at a Sept. 27 hearing in Baltimore, he said.

CA spokeswoman Pamela Mack would not comment.

In citing CA, state officials stopped short of saying unsafe working conditions caused Hubbard's death.

"Some violations may be related to the unfortunate drowning at Lake Elkhorn and some may not be related," said Lowry, the MOSH enforcement chief.

The agency also has cited CA for less-serious code violations at the work site, including failing to notify stateofficials about the use of hazardous chemicals, Lowry said.

The judge who hears the case in September can uphold the state's citations, withdraw them, or uphold them but modify the penalties, Lowry sad.

Whitehead continues to work for CA, but could not be reached for comment.

Hubbard's family also could not be reached for comment.

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