Sept. 19, 2005 The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed $237,500 in fines for "willful and serious" health violations at a local cement company. OSHA inspectors found the violations during investigations after an employee was killed at the plant March 9.
Caricement USVI Corp. was cited by OSHA for 37 alleged safety and health violations subsequent to the death of Nicholas Williams. Caricement has indicated it wants a meeting to discuss the fines, at which time the company could contest them, according to an OSHA official.
Williams became entangled in a piece of equipment while working at the concrete processing plant in Crown Bay. He died at the scene despite efforts by dozens of emergency workers to save him. The personnel tried to free Williams from the equipment and stop his bleeding, but, according to observers at the scene, Williams had lost too much blood.
Ted Fitzgerald, OSHA assistant regional director for the U. S. Labor Department public affairs office, said Monday, "This is a significant case in terms of the size of the penalties, and the number of violations cited. It illustrates in the starkest of terms why health standards are necessary and why they must be met."
OSHA said in a Monday release that its investigation found that several screw conveyors were not grated or otherwise guarded against employee contact with their moving parts; an open pit was unguarded; and procedures were not developed and utilized to prevent the accidental startup of machinery during maintenance.
Ben Chan, Caricement attorney, said Monday, "The citations had nothing to do with the death of Mr. Williams." He said they were for other alleged violations OSHA found in its inspection after the accident.
Fitzgerald said later Monday, "The death caused OSHA to come in and do an inspection. We inspected the whole plant. A lot of the items cited did not relate to the accident; it's a wide range of citations that were issued which relate to conditions at the time of the accident. Other hazards were found in the course of the inspection.
"The initial focus was on the accident," Fitzgerald said, "which can expand the inspection to the whole work place. It is not unusual to find additional hazards."
Three willful citations totaling $180,000 in proposed fines were issued for conditions OSHA found at the cement company. OSHA defines a willful violation as one with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSHA act and regulations.
Jose Carpena, OSHA area director for the Caribbean, said in the release that "Management knew these specific safeguards were required, yet did not supply them. Had safety standards been complied with, this fatal accident could have been prevented."
Caricement has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA director, or to contest them before the OSHA Review Commission.
Carpena said over the phone Monday that the company has contacted him, and an informal conference on the citations will be held between OSHA and Caricement soon, likely within the next week.
Fitzgerald said, "If Caricement disagrees with the citations, that will be the venue to voice any concerns."
OSHA also issued 34 serious and other-than-serious citations, with $93,500 in proposed fines for other unsafe conditions in the plant, including hazards related to falls; work in confined spaces; machine guarding electrical equipment; respirators; noise and hearing conservation; hazard communication; lockout/tagout; fire extinguishers; compressed gas storage; personal protective equipment and clothing; an above-ground diesel tank; a compressed air hose; and failing to record workplace injuries and illnesses.
A serious violation is a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee. An other-than-serious violation is a condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm, but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees, OSHA said in the release.
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