Bethlehem Steel faces safety fines Lift-truck violations cited by MOSH

January 09, 1992|By Michael K. Burns

The state has fined Bethlehem Steel Corp. $4,995 for safety violations involving lift trucks at the Sparrows Point complex, vehicles implicated in the deaths of two workers over the past three years.

The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health office issued the citations after investigations prompted by complaints by the Steelworkers union and by the Oct. 1 death of David Hamlett, an inventory checker in the tin mill who was crushed between a runaway tractor and a 50,000-pound coil of steel.

MOSH accused the steelmaker of operating trucks with low batteries and faulty electrical relays, with bad brakes, with unsafely bent pieces and without required fenders. Low ceiling clearances for trucks were also unmarked, the agency alleged.

MOSH charged Bethlehem Steel with a repeat violation for failing to correct rutted floors in the cold sheet mill, which could affect safe operation of the lift trucks that move huge coils of steel. The fine is $1,840.

The original citation for the unsafe floor stemmed from follow-up MOSH investigations at the plant after Richard K. Spencer was run over by a lift truck in that cold sheet mill Jan. 11, 1989. Bethlehem paid a fine of $585 in that incident.

Union officials said they had filed complaints with MOSH about the allegedly unsafe trucks several weeks before Mr. Hamlett was killed last year.

In addition to the violations noted by MOSH, the union claimed that the old lift trucks were being used to carry loads heavier than the manufacturer's stated safety limits and that units have broken down under these excess loads.

In the investigation of Mr. Hamlett's death, MOSH found no safety violations directly linked to the accident. Investigators found the truck was operated at an unsafe speed going around a corner, hit a guard rail and slid out of control into the path of Mr. Hamlett, who was checking inventory of the huge coils of rolled steel.

MOSH found no apparent problem with the brakes or battery of the truck. But it did issue a fine for a lack of fenders. The agency said the vehicle's battered condition showed it had obviously hit guardrails several times in the past.

The agency issued four citations for serious violations found during inspections, prompted by the union complaints, between September and December of last year.

A Bethlehem Steel spokesman said last night that the company is reviewing the citations to determine its official response. The company has 15 days to challenge the fines and to request a formal hearing.

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