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OSHA fines cargo company after fall kills worker

Posted On: Nov. 30, 2016 1:24 PM CST

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued $124,709 in fines to a Seattle-based cargo handling company for willful safety violations after a worker's fatal fall, the agency said Tuesday.

While employed for SSA Pacific, 48-year-old longshoreman Jim Meadows suffered fatal injuries after he fell 10 feet onto the metal deck of the Forest Trader, a 21,000-ton bulk carrier cargo ship registered in Panama, OSHA said.

After an OSHA investigation prompted by Mr. Meadows’ death, the agency cited SSA Pacific for willfully failing to protect its workers from falls into hatches and cargo holds. Agency inspectors who boarded the vessel found multiple hazardous areas where no netting or fall protection measures existed.

OSHA guidelines recommend fall protection measures, such as netting and temporary platforms, to protect workers. SSA management claimed the crews used "buddy systems" with spotters to warn one another when one of them was working too close to hatches or risked falling overboard when securing loads of logs. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union challenged the claim that a spotter system was in place, according to OSHA.

“Jim Meadows death was preventable, if only a few commonsense measures had been taken to prevent his fall and to protect his coworkers,” Seattle-based Galen Blanton, OSHA regional administrator in Seattle said in a statement. “OSHA has cited SSA Pacific for similar violations in Oregon and Florida in the past three years in the hopes of avoiding a tragedy like this. Every employer has a solemn duty to make sure its workers return home safely at the end of every shift.”

SSA Pacific could not be reached for comment.