From the Occupational Health and Safety Administration:
ABERDEEN, Md. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued notices to the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Test Center regarding alleged violations of commercial diving safety standards at its facility in Aberdeen. OSHA’s investigation was initiated in January following the fatality of a civilian engineering technician who died while performing routine maintenance at ATC’s Underwater Explosion Test Facility, known as the “super pond.”
“Tragedies, such as this, can be prevented by following OSHA’s commercial diving operations standards, which are in place to protect divers from risk of serious hazards, including drowning, hypothermia, circulatory and respiratory problems,” said Michael Stracka, acting director of OSHA’s Baltimore/Washington Area Office. “All employers, especially those engaged in high-hazard activities such as diving, must provide a safe working environment for their employees.”
The ATC provides test and test support services for authorized customers, within and outside the Department of Defense, including government and nongovernment organizations, domestic and foreign. The facility employs approximately 759 workers. The super pond measures 1,070 feet long and 920 feet wide with a maximum depth of 150 feet.
Seven alleged serious safety violations involve improper training for divers; the lack of a qualified, designated person in charge on the surface to manage all aspects of a dive; allowing diving activities to be performed without a standby diver; not maintaining continuous visual contact of other divers; no reserve breathing air supply during diving activities; and using breathing air to operate diver’s buoyancy control rather than solely for breathing purposes. 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.
Four other-than-serious violations include the center’s failure to have a safe work practices manual and dive compression tables available at the dive site; maintain a depth profile, which is a record of how deep each diver goes during the course of a dive; and dive-specific information for all divers. An other-than-serious citation is issued when a violation has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
Detailed information on commercial diving safety hazards and safeguards is available at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/commercialdiving/index.html.
Under Executive Order 12196, federal agencies must comply with the same safety and health standards as private sector employers covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The federal agency equivalent to a private sector citation is the Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions. The notice is used to inform establishment officials of violations of OSHA standards, alternate standards and 29 Code of Federal Regulations citable program elements. OSHA cannot propose monetary penalties against another federal agency for failure to comply with OSHA standards.
The notice will become a final order if the ATC does not request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in the Baltimore/Washington Area Office within 15 business days. This inspection, the first at the center, was conducted by OSHA’s Baltimore/Washington office; telephone 410-865-2055.
The Money Tree says
K…so if this were the private sector they’d fine the offending entity into bankruptcy. Will the government now sue itself?
The Money Tree says
And if it sues it self will the fine force it into bankruptcy…whoops forgot already bankrupt.
Don't cry for me says
It will sue itself, pay itself with freshly printed money, and then promptly spend said new money on something trivial.
Jaguar Judy says
If this were the private sector it never would have gotten this far. OSHA would have been on them early and often and no slack would have been cut. But this is the public sector policing the public sector so different rules are observed. The question OSHA needs to answer is why is this the first OSHA inspection of a facility that has been there for a long time?
Because need-to-know prevents access.
ALEX R says
Kharn, Let me just be sure I have this right. OSHA says this inspection was the first at the center. It didn’t happen until after people died. And you are saying the public doesn’t need to know? Just asking for clarification.
The Army maintains its own industrial hygienists who handle their safety assessments and compliance (US Army Public Health Command), OSHA is only called in for second opinions. I presume its cheaper to maintain their own career staff of pre-cleared hygienists able to access any level of program at APG than clear a continuous stream of new OSHA employees.
Todd Holden says
so, the ‘alias-laden, pussyfied, hide&seekers’ of anonymity can bash me again, but now maybe the folks who just wonder ‘why’ will get the answers to a tragic loss at the clandestine world of our security. The early post I made brought on the onslaught, so you pricks can start aggain, I don’t mind…I and lots of folks of like mind, just wanted to know what terribly went wrong at the big pond…and hope it will never happen again…
Hedley Lamarr says
I believe that OSHA doesn’t make routine inspections, if they did than they would need to hire a force equal to the population of ASIA. They will visit a workplace if a complaint is filed and they fine that the complaint is serious enough to investigate or if someone is seriously hurt or killed. It is not OSHA’s job to ensure workplace safety, it is the employers job to make sure the workplace is safe, OSHA is there to stick it up their butt if employer fails to do their job. It is also the employees job to report safety issues to management and if management fails to correct the issue than they should call OSHA.
Jaguar Judy says
Well, Hedley, that’s just great. Except it didn’t happen and people are dead. So is OSHA going to be sticking it up . . . . . . ?
Otto Schmidlap says
Mr. Todd Holden is always spot on! I read him regularly and find him to be a levelheaded, regular fellow, who has Harford County’s best interests at heart. What he doesn’t know about his native county isn’t worth knowing. You disagree with him at the risk of eventually looking foolish and shallow.
Hedley Lamarr says
Oh, since you read him regularly and you find him levelheaded, regular fellow you must be right. Is your name Mr. Todd Holden? Im not disagreeing goof, you are missing my point, my response is to J. Judy