A marine terminal operator in Seattle is facing a $448,200 fine from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for failing to correct serious worker health hazards for which it was previously cited. The fine is one of L&I’s largest in recent years.
In an inspection at Seattle Bulk Shipping Inc.’s Harbor Island facility, L&I found that the company failed to correct serious violations that it was cited for last year, leaving workers exposed to serious hazards for more than a year.
The company performs several operations at the facility including transferring large quantities of highly flammable ethanol fuel from rail cars to tanker trucks, loading grain on rail cars and transferring it between trucks.
L&I’s follow-up inspection found that Seattle Bulk Shipping failed to correct a “confined space” violation it was cited for in 2015. The employer did not develop an adequate confined space entry program to protect employees who work around or inside grain pits or other confined spaces. Without safety precautions, confined spaces can be deadly to workers and would-be rescuers. Failure to correct this serious violation carries a penalty of $324,000.
The company was also cited for a second violation that hadn’t been corrected for failing to provide an approved emergency eyewash station for workers who transfer ethanol from rail cars and tanker trucks. Ethanol is a strong irritant in addition to being highly flammable; without an eyewash station, workers could suffer serious eye injuries. Failure to correct this violation carries a penalty of $108,000.
The employer was cited for three additional serious violations related to emergency procedures for potential ethanol release and confined space rescue. Each of those violations has a $5,400 penalty.
L&I began investigating the company in 2014, when a worker was hospitalized after falling into an underground grain storage pit. After comprehensive safety and health inspections, the company was ultimately cited for more than 50 workplace violations and fined $424,850. Those violations are currently under appeal. The company is considered a severe violator, which means it is subject to follow-up inspections to determine if the conditions still exist.
Seattle Bulk Shipping may appeal the violations. Penalty money paid in connection with a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.