The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Belhaven Shipyard and Marina Inc. – doing business as TowBoatUS River Forest – after an employee drowned when a towboat capsized while operating in a winter storm. The company faces $11,640 in proposed penalties.
OSHA investigators determined that the company permitted employees to continue non-essential towing operations during a winter storm state of emergency. The towboat overturned and sank when weather and water conditions deteriorated. OSHA has cited the company for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards by allowing employees to attempt the tow during a declared state of emergency; not ensuring employees wore personal flotation devices; and exposing employees to drowning hazards by providing a flotation device not designed for use in freezing temperatures.
“This tragedy never should have happened,” said OSHA Raleigh Area Office Director Kim Morton. “It could have been prevented if the employer had made worker safety a priority and heeded warnings of the state of emergency from an approaching storm.”
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit https://www.osha.gov.