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January 14, 2009

OSHA issues fines, citations in Goliath crane collapse case

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has completed inspections prompted by the fatal Aug. 14, 2008, collapse of the giant Goliath crane at the former Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Mass.

Workers were dismantling the 3,000 ton overhead Goliath gantry crane when one of its legs fell to the ground, killing one employee and injuring three others.

OSHA says that its inspection found that Norsar LLC, the contractor overseeing the dismantling, and Sarens, the subcontractor that owned and operated the jacking system used to support the crane during the dismantling process, deviated from the original disassembly plan, choosing to dismantle the crane's 160-foot long, 175 metric-ton weight legs in single units rather than in two 80-foot sections.

These changes exposed employees to crushing and struck-by hazards due to inadequate planning, failure to control movement and failure to assure the structural stability of the leg during its removal, says OSHA. Excessive pull and push forces were applied to the leg, which shot out, severed its support connections and crashed to the ground. The two companies also failed to avoid or minimize employees' presence in the danger zone.

As a result, Norsar and Sarens were both issued serious citations for exposing employees to crushing and struck-by hazards. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

In addition, these two contractors plus a third, Daniel Marr and Son Co., were cited for exposing the employees, who were working near water, to drowning and fall hazards due to lack of guardrails, personal flotation devices, life vests, rescue skiffs and/or fall protection.

All told, says OSHA, Norsar was issued five serious citations with $35,000 in proposed fines; Sarens was issued three serious citations, with $21,000 in fines; and Marr was issued four serious citations with $12,000 in fines. The fines proposed to Norsar and Sarens were $7,000 each, the maximum allowed under law for serious citations.

Each company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed fines to meet with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. This inspection was conducted by OSHA's Boston South Area Office.


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