BRIMLEY, Mich. -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees at Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery faced atmospheric, water, amputation and asbestos hazards while working in tanks and pits, a recent federal safety and health investigation found.
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors determined that the Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, failed to follow federal guidelines for working in confined spaces at the Brimley Fish Hatchery.
OSHA issued notices of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions to the federal agency on Oct. 6 for 11 serious, one repeated and one other-than-serious violation.
'Tanks and pits can be dangerous or fatal for workers lacking proper training and protection,' said Larry Johnson, director of OSHA's Lansing Area Office. 'Like private employers, federal agencies must correct safety and health deficiencies immediately. Failing to do so is inexcusable.'
OSHA found the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to evaluate tanks and pits for confined space hazards, post warning signs and prevent unauthorized entry into these spaces. Many workplaces contain confined spaces not designed for people, but large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, such as maintenance and repair. A confined space also has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy.
The Fish and Wildlife Service also exposed workers to machinery operating parts because it failed to install machine guards on a mechanical power transmission, establish an energy control program and train workers on machine safety procedures, a process known as lockout/tagout.
The repeated violation was for using compressed air at a force greater than 30 pounds per square inch when cleaning and exposing workers to struck-by hazards. OSHA cited the Fish and Wildlife Service previously for this hazard in 2013 at a Kodiak, Alaska, site.
OSHA initiated the April 2015 programmed inspection according to the fiscal year 2015 Region V Federal Agency Local Emphasis Program*. It was the first inspection at the Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery.
View current notices here*.
The Brimley Fish Hatchery has 13 employees and has produced lake trout for stocking the Great Lakes since 1951. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employs approximately 9,000 people nationwide.
As required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, federal agencies must comply with the same safety standards as private-sector employers. The federal agency equivalent to a private-sector citation is a notice of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions, which informs agency officials of OSHA violations and citable program elements of the 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1960 - Elements for Federal Employee Occupational Safety and Health Programs.
Unlike the private sector, OSHA does not impose penalties for federal agencies. However, the equivalent private-sector penalty for these violations would be $70,500. The agency has 15 business days from receipt of OSHA's notice to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or appeal the findings to the Regional Administrator.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Lansing Area Office at 517-487-4996.
Under Section 19 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and Executive Order 12196, the head of each agency is responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for his or her employees. OSHA's role is to ensure the safety and health of all federal employees by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.