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Region 4 News Release: 10-654-ATL
May 19, 2010
Contact: Michael D'Aquino        Michael Wald
Email: D'Aquino.Michael@dol.gov     Wald.Michael@dol.gov
Phone: 404-562-2076     404-562-2078

US Department of Labor's OSHA cites VT Halter Marine more than
$1.3 million for willfully exposing workers to toxic vapors in a confined space
2 workers died and 2 received 3rd degree burns

JACKSON, Miss. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined VT Halter Marine Inc., a shipbuilder, for $1,322,000 following a November 2009 explosion and fire that killed two workers and seriously injured two other workers. The incident occurred in the inner bottom void of a tugboat that was being constructed at the company's Escatawpa, Miss., facility.

"This was a horrific and preventable situation. The employer was aware of the hazards and knowingly and willfully sent workers into a confined space with an explosive and toxic atmosphere," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Loss of life can never be something considered acceptable or as a course of doing business."

Following its investigation, OSHA has cited the company for 17 willful and 11 serious violations. The willful citations are for failing to inspect and test the confined space prior to entry, to prevent entry into confined spaces where concentration of flammable vapors exceed the prescribed limits and to use explosion proof lighting in a hazardous location. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

The serious violations include a lack of machine guarding, allowing the use of defective electrical equipment