OSHA Fines Superior Shipyard In Incident That Claimed A Man’s Life

OSHA Finds Failure To Ensure Worker Wore Proper Protective Gear


The federal workers’ safety agency has fined a northern Wisconsin shipyard in an incident that led to one man’s death. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration within the U.S. Department of Labor cited Fraser Shipyards because the man wasn’t wearing proper protective gear.

OSHA issued the $12,548 citation against Fraser Shipyards on March 30 after employee Joe Burch was severely burned on the job this February. OSHA Spokesman Scott Allen said they fined Fraser because the shipyard didn’t make sure he was wearing fire retardant gear.

“The individual was using a torch and the clothing he had on caught fire. Without the personal protective equipment on, he injured himself with burns,” Allen said. “He spent a good time in the hospital before succumbing to his injuries.”

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Burch was a member of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 117. Union Steward Al Janowicz said their sympathies go out to Burch’s family.

“He was very conscientious about everything he did, and the sad part about Joe is that all his skills are not getting passed on,” Janowicz said.

Janowicz said safety has improved at the shipyard, but he declined to comment further pending conversations with the shipyard and OSHA. Fraser Shipyards has 15 days from the date of the citation to contest the fine. A shipyard spokesman declined to comment on the details of the case pending discussions with OSHA in the coming days. He said the shipyard remains committed to worker safety.

Fraser Shipyards agreed to pay OSHA a $700,000 fine earlier this year as part of a settlement where the company did not admit fault for lead exposure among workers. A majority of shipyard workers were exposed to unsafe lead levels last year while working on the Great Lakes freighter Herbert C. Jackson. The shipyard agreed to make safety improvements as part of the settlement.

Since then, Fraser has informed OSHA of all new contracted work, completed job hazard analysis reports before conducting work, evaluated the presence of lead, executed blood lead monitoring and implemented a health and safety management system. The shipyard has agreed to meet with the agency twice a year over the next three years.