Pacific Stevedoring cited with safety violations

$51K in penalties over worker’s death

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited locally based Pacific Stevedoring Services with five safety violations following the death of a worker at the StarKist dock last August.

OHSA has proposed total penalties of $51,100 and Pacific Stevedoring has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, according to a news release yesterday morning from USDOL’s regional office in San Francisco.

Asked what message OSHA wants so send to stevedoring companies in the territory by citing Pacific Stevedoring for safety violations, USDOL regional spokesman Jose A. Carnevali said all “employees are entitled to a safe and healthful workplace regardless of their location.”

“OSHA will use all means necessary to ensure that all employers are following OSHA regulations — the minimum requirements to provide this safe and healthful workplace,” he said via e-mail from San Francisco, responding to Samoa News questions.

Asked if the federal agency has statistics on similar incidents in American Samoa over the past years, Carnevali said, it’s unknown how many crane failures like this have occurred recently as employers are only required to report an incident to OSHA if there is the hospitalization of three or more employees or if there is a fatality.

However, he points out that “unloading of fish can be a dangerous job. There are many hazards associated with it such as falls, ammonia exposure, hypothermia, and ‘caught-in’ and ‘struck-by’ hazards.”

According to OSHA, an investigation was opened Aug. 8 last year after an employee was struck in the head by the boom of a crane being used to unload fish onboard the Pacific Princess tuna fishing vessel.

“OSHA’s investigation determined that the crane’s hydraulic cylinder failed when the load exceeded the crane’s capacity, and that communication between the signalman and crane operator was ineffective,” the statement says.

One willful violation with a $42,000 penalty was cited for failing to ensure the shipboard crane’s working load was not exceeded. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Three serious violations with $9,100 in penalties included failing to provide personal protective equipment such as hard hats and safety shoes, failing to ensure that the signal person used conventional crane signals to communicate with the vessel’s crane operator and failing to provide accident prevention training to the foreman.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known, said OHSA.

An other-than-serious violation with no monetary penalty was cited for failing to record workplace injuries and illnesses as required. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

“Ensuring that a crane operates within safe working limits is a basic requirement of OSHA’s safety standards. A family has lost a loved one because these standards were ignored,” said Galen Lemke, director of OSHA’s Honolulu Area Office in Hawaii.

This incident has prompted the federal agency to seek partnership with the local industry on addressing this and other issues.

“Because of this fatality, and the general hazards associated with the fishing industry, the Honolulu OSHA Office is pursuing a partnership with the industry in American Samoa,” Carnevali told Samoa News.

He said it will be a collaborative effort between OSHA, the U.S. Coast Guard, Star-Kist, the local stevedoring companies and the boat owners. “The Honolulu OSHA office hopes that Pacific Stevedoring Services will play a key role in leading this cause,” he said.


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