Federal officials have withdrawn two serious safety citations against a Mississippi industrial painting contractor with a model safety record, saying the inspections that led to them should not have been allowed.
The contractor, however, says the citations themselves were unfounded from the start and wants to dispel any notion that they were dropped on a technicality.
‘Slap in the Face’
“We have been a model contractor,” Curtis McDaniel, Vice President of Industrial Operations and Quality Control for Industrial Corrosion Control Inc., of Gulfport, MS, said in an interview Friday (Jan. 6).
|Industrial Corrosion Control’s extensive project portfolio includes blasting and painting a water tank that cleans firefighting water distributed to the Pascagoula (MS) Industrial Park. Like many of ICCI’s projects, this one involved lead abatement.|
“We spend thousands and thousands of dollars every year training our guys to pick up on hazards and correct them, and for something like this to happen is really a slap in the face.”
ICCI is a member of the Mississippi Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), with whom OSHA has had a partnership since 2000. The partnership recognizes ABC's “Platinum Partner” contractors who have exemplary safety and health programs at their work sites. ICCI has been a Platinum Partner for eight years.
ICCI is also QP1 and QP2 certified through SSPC, has NACE-qualified inspectors on staff, and is a member of both NACE and the National Association of Women in Construction. The company has won numerous awards for Excellence in Construction.
On Dec. 21, OSHA issued a total of 50 citations against Huntington Ingalls Industries and five subcontractors, including ICCI, for a variety of infractions at Huntington’s Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, MS.
Huntington received 44 citations, and the four other subs received one citation each.
ICCI was cited for two serious safety violations and fined $3,808. OSHA accused the company of improperly handling compressed gas cylinders and allowing cables and hoses to become trip hazards.
‘They Called My Guy Over and Wrote Him Up’
McDaniel and his crew were blasting on the starboard side of a ship when Mississippi OSHA inspectors arrived last June, and he said that his work area passed inspection with “no problem.”
But then, he said, the inspector went over to the port side, well outside ICCI’s work space, and saw cylinders, cables and hoses lying around. The items did not belong to ICCI.
Because no one was working in that area at the time, the inspector “called my guy over from our area and wrote him up,” said McDaniel.
“They said, ‘If your guy is in the area, he’s responsible,’” McDaniel recalled. “We said, ‘He wasn’t in that area until you called him over.’”
McDaniel added: “We’re blasters and painters; we don’t even use that equipment.”
When ICCI confronted OSHA about the citations, McDaniel said, the agency offered to reduce them from Serious to Other than Serious. McDaniel refused, insisting that his company’s record be cleared.
A week later, Mississippi OSHA formally deleted the charges against ICCI in what an agency letter called an “informal settlement agreement.”
Eugene Stewart, of Mississippi OSHA, signed the settlement letter. However, he said in an interview Friday that he knew nothing about the substance of the citations or about the company’s contention that the items and work area were not ICCI’s.
As far as he knew, Stewart said, the citations were dropped solely because “we had a partnership with ABC and for this type of partnership, we should not have had this type of inspection.”
The citations were deleted “when they called and reminded us,” Stewart said.
Under the partnership program, partner workplaces are exempt from planned inspections, known as program inspections. The Huntington inspection was a program inspection and thus should not have been extended to partner workplaces, Stewart said.
OSHA may and does inspect partner workplaces in cases of a death, complaint or referral.
In this case, however, “since the violations were deleted because of the partnership, OSHA didn’t get into the merit of the violations,” OSHA spokesman Michael D’Aquino said late Friday.