Contractors Fined Nearly $200,000 for Hazards at Boston Harbor

OSHA has proposed a combined total of $199,100 in fines against two contractors for exposing employees to falls, possible drowning, and other hazards at a worksite located at Commonwealth Pier in Boston. The agency opened its inspections on July 11, 2007, in response to a complaint against Barletta Heavy Division Inc. of Canton, Mass., and Erie Interstate Contractors Inc. of Lancaster, N.Y. The contractors were removing lead paint from structural steel supports for piers surrounding the Boston World Trade Center. OSHA found that employees of both contractors were exposed to falls and possible drowning in Boston Harbor.

Violations included the lack of a safe walkway between the pier and barge on which the employees worked; lack of personal flotation devices for employees; inadequately protected scaffolding; trip and fall hazards from ill-kept barges and work platforms; lack of adequate lifelines; and lack of training for employees to recognize and avoid hazards connected with work over or near water. Furthermore, employees of both contractors lacked protective headgear.

Erie Interstate employees also faced overexposure to, and inadequate control of, lead and other hazardous substances generated during paint removal operations. Additional dangers involved insufficient and incomplete lead monitoring; lack of training and eye protection; poor hazard communication; electric shock hazards; and inadequate respiratory protection.

"A fall into water carries dual dangers--impact and drowning--which must be addressed through proper fall protection and effective worker training," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director in Braintree. "Similarly, effective safeguards against lead are necessary since long-term overexposure can damage the kidneys, blood-forming organs and nervous system."

Barletta was cited for two willful and six serious violations of safety and health standards carrying a total of $110,000 in proposed fines. Erie Interstate was cited for one willful and 24 serious violations, totaling $89,100 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

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