OSHA cites 50 violations by Ingalls; proposes penalties (Updated 11:25 a.m.)

The Labor Department's OSHA division has cited Huntington Ingalls Industries International Shipbuilding Inc. and five subcontractors for 50 safety and health violations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened its inspection after receiving a complaint in June about safety hazards at the Pascagoula shipyard. The initial inspection was expanded to a comprehensive safety and health inspection under OSHA’s Site Specific Targeting Program, which focuses on companies in industries with higher-than-average injury and illness rates.

Ingalls is on a winter break from work and will meet with OSHA the first week back, spokesman Bill Glenn said this morning. The company has roughly two weeks to contest the citations or pay the fine and fix the issues. "The OSHA inspection was an opportunity for us to identify opportunities to further enhance our safety program," Ingalls said in a statement this morning. "We monitor the safety of our shipyard and shipbuilders daily and we are focused on continually improving. In fact, injuries and lost time cases in Pascagoula are down in 2011 from 2010 by 15 and 8 percent respectively." "Wherever possible, inspection citations were corrected immediately or corrective action plans were immediately implemented,' the statement said. "We share OSHA’s commitment to the safety of our shipbuilders and appreciate this opportunity to further improve our safety program."

The company employs more than 38,000 workers in California, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia, and has contracts with the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. It is based in Newport News, Va., and was formerly known as Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. “Huntington Ingalls employs more than 10,000 workers at this location who build ships for the federal government, and these employees deserve a first-rate occupational safety and health program. This is a wake-up call that the safety and health of workers needs to be the shipyard’s highest priority,” said Teresa Harrison, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Atlanta. OSHA cited Huntington Ingalls for 37 serious safety violations, carrying penalties of $150,300, for impalement, electrical, “struck-by,” scaffolding, blocked exits, compressed gases, rigging, machine guarding, welding, tripping and fall hazards.

Four serious health violations with $16,000 in penalties include allowing lead, arsenic and cadmium dust to accumulate in a lunch area; dispensing of flammable liquids in improper containers; using containers for flammable liquids that were damaged; and not labeling adhesive and paint containers with hazard warnings.

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. In addition, three other-than-serious violations with no monetary penalty were cited for failing to provide an exit sign, provide a floor plate to determine load capacity and use fixed wiring to replace a flexible cord. 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.

Read more about this story in Thursday's Sun Herald.