Bethlehem to be fined $90,000 by OSHA Fatal shipyard fire at root of case

November 10, 1995|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,SUN STAFF

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said yesterday that it has proposed $90,000 in fines against Bethlehem Steel Corp. for one "willful" and one "serious" safety violation in connection with a fatal fire May 9 aboard a ship at the Sparrows Point shipyard.

Such willful violations are "rare," said OSHA's area director, Leonard Moore. "Most employers don't allow situations to escalate to the point they are blatantly disregarded."

Owen Garner, 46, a 25-year employee of the shipyard, was found dead after a fire on the Melvin Baker II, a general cargo ship that was undergoing repair.

Baltimore County firefighters battled the one-alarm blaze for more than an hour before it was brought under control. The fire was believed to have started in a port wing tank.

A $70,000 fine for the "willful" violation was proposed because the company "failed to stop welding operations and conduct proper testing when changes occurred in a confined work area," Mr. Moore said.

The "serious" violation, which carries a proposed fine of $20,000, involved failing to test fire extinguishing equipment and failing to train workers who must enter confined spaces.

An OSHA press release said a willful violation is one in which there is "an intentional disregard, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSHA laws and regulations."

A serious violation is one "in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious injury could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard," the agency said.

Bethlehem, which received the citations yesterday, has not decided whether it will appeal them. "We're now reviewing them and when we complete that, we will take appropriate action," said spokesman Ted Baldwin.

The company has 15 days to respond, OSHA said.

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