Agency charges Pimlico with 27 safety violations MOSHA recommends $30,150 in fines for work-area infractions

August 10, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Pimlico Race Course does not appear to be a safe place to work, according to a state regulatory agency.

The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Agency, a division of the state Department of Licensing and Regulation, has cited the Maryland Jockey Club, alleging 27 work-related violations. The agency also has proposed levying $30,150 in penalties on the track.

tTC The MOSHA investigation was begun after the electrocution of the horse, Fox Brush, and injury to his exercise rider, Clayton Beck, during a morning training accident at the track's auxiliary starting gate April 1.

About a third of the proposed fines, or $10,150, are related to functions at the "Practice Starting Gate Area" or the "Starting Gate at Rogers Avenue."

Three of the violations occurred April 1, according to the citation summons, at the auxiliary gate where the electrocution occurred. The summons said "the path to ground from circuits, equipment and enclosures was not permanent and continuous . . . [that] portable electric equipment and flexible cords used in highly conductive work locations, or in job locations where employees were likely to contact water or conductive liquids, were not approved for those locations . . . [and that] portable cord and plug-connected electric equipment and flexible cord sets were not visually inspected before use on any shift for external defects."

The horse apparently was electrocuted when a cable used to charge the batteries that operate the starting gate was unplugged and draped over the gate, but was still connected to a nearby standard 120-volt outlet. The prong came into contact with water.

The track's security agency, the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau, labeled the electrocution "an unavoidable accident" and said it was caused by the horse jarring the gate.

Yesterday, S. Bonsal White, owner of Fox Brush, who criticized the TRA report as being "a whitewash," said he was heartened by the MOSHA findings. "I think what the agency has unearthed is correct. Everyone knows about the delinquencies at Pimlico and its management, and it's high time they face up to their responsibilities."

White said: "At this point I'm no longer a principal in the case, but I want to see that the right thing is done."

Within a couple of weeks of the accident, the track paid White $25,000 for the estimated value of the horse as well as an additional $2,500 in purse money that the horse might have earned.

MOSHA has proposed fining Dick Small, trainer of Fox Brush, $3,500 for allowing one of his employees, exercise rider Beck, to work in the area of the alleged deficiencies.

Electric current was sent through Beck when he clung to the starting gate after Fox Brush collapsed. He was pulled from the gate by starter Danny Fichette and was hospitalized for a short time. He still is not working, however. Small said that the rider has put in workmen's compensation claims concerning nerve disorders. Beck could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Small said that he already has sent a letter to MOSHA contesting the charges against him.

"Of course, what happened is the track's fault and not mine. I'm not responsible for what happens at the starting gate," Small said. "But I'm glad this incident is being brought out into a public forum and shows how badly this place is run. I'm glad it's not being swept under the rug. Maybe these problems will start to be addressed."

Pimlico/Laurel operator Joe De Francis said yesterday that he had not yet seen the citations and would not comment.

In addition to the violations on April 1 at the starting gate, there are three other allegations of starting-gate violations, according to MOSHA. On April 2, an extension cord was found routed through a window, and on April 15 an "over current" device at the starting gate was not identified and a hole was found in an electrical box.

Other violations, amounting to about $20,000 in proposed fines, were found in the track's woodworking and carpenter shops, in a barn and the track kitchen, a plumbing supply room and a part of the grandstand, according to the citations.

The track and Small have 15 working days to contest the charges and request a hearing or ask MOSHA for an informal conference.

Four of the five citations charged to the track were listed as "serious."

"There is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, unless the employer did not know and could not with reasonable diligence know of the violation," the report stated. It is the second most serious MOSHA charge, ranking behind a "willful" violation.

One other citation was listed as "other" -- a violation that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but which is not considered serious, according to MOSHA.

Milton Saul, MOSHA's assistant commissioner, would not comment yesterday on any of the allegations or proposed penalties.


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