Already categorized as a severe violator for incidents this decade, Fraser Shipyards in Superior settled another regulatory penalty this spring after an employee was injured in February.
The employee was struck by falling steel plates which gave way after rigging used to raise the plates had failed.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued three citations in March related to the Feb. 21 incident. The News Tribune obtained the citations using a Freedom of Information Act request.
“A load of steel plates was not safely rigged,” the OSHA citations said.
Also, a "tag line" was not utilized in order to keep employees a safe distance from the load, OSHA said, and “nylon slings utilized when lifting steel plates were not adequately padded by suitable materials where they passed over sharp edges or corners of the load."
The steel plates being lifted cut through the nylon slings, “striking and injuring an employee near the load,” OSHA said.
OSHA rules require wood blocks or other materials be placed where slings pass over sharp edges or corners of loads.
The nearly 130-year-old Superior-based shipyard paid a $9,188 penalty in April related to the incident — a settled upon amount that followed an initial penalty in excess of $13,000, OSHA documents showed.
The shipyard had been inspected twice last winter — one a follow-up inspection for being in the Severe Violators Enforcement Program and two days later, on Feb. 21, for an inspection triggered by the employee injury, which Fraser reported. The three citations issued in March were all related to the Feb. 21 incident and inspection.
Fraser Shipyards declined to comment for this story.
Categorized as “use of gear” violations, the citations recalled the incident in February 2017 that left welder Joseph Burch with severe burns on his legs. Burch died as a result of his burns two months later.
OSHA concluded that Burch was wearing frayed coveralls and not provided with fire-retardant gear as he washed old welds using an oxygen-acetylene torch in a cargo hold on the lake freighter Roger Blough. Old welds are cleaned out so that rusting sheets of steel can be replaced with new ones.
Last year, a group of 60 workers received a $7.5 million civil court settlement after they'd been exposed to dangerous levels of lead in 2016 at Fraser Shipyards. The settlement was related to work to install new engines on the lake freighter Herbert C. Jackson. In that instance, Fraser also settled a $1.4 million OSHA penalty, paying $700,000.
Fraser paid a $7,530 penalty in the Burch case.
Fraser had been in the midst of a three-year period of greater scrutiny resulting from being placed in the Severe Violators Enforcement Program. It's not yet clear if the newest violations will reset the shipyard's time in the program.
Fraser Shipyards is owned by the Duluth-based holding company Capstan Corp., which also owns Viant Crane, Lake Assault Boats, Northern Engineering, and the commercial real estate agency Atwater Group. Capstan did not respond to attempts to reach it and has never spoken with the News Tribune regarding Fraser's safety record.
It remains unclear what injuries were suffered by the worker during the rigging incident in February.