Wednesday, June 9, 1999

Rails could
have stopped
harbor death

OSHA issues a notice to Hawaii
Stevedores, and an investigator
says the pier at Barbers Point
lacked needed safety devices

By Jaymes K. Song


Federal investigators say safety rails could have prevented a fatal accident at Barbers Point deep-draft harbor two weeks ago.

Honolulu-based Hawaii Stevedores Inc. was issued an "imminent danger notice" Friday by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for not having the rails, which are required by law, or curbs installed at Piers 5 and 6, U.S. Department of Labor officials said yesterday.

The warning is to notify workers of the danger at the site and advise drivers to avoid the area near dock edges.

"We identified a violation and we found a problem with the pier at Barbers Point," said Alan Traenkner, OSHA's director of enforcement and investigations in San Francisco.

The harbor is where Hawaii Stevedores' operation supervisor Edgar Fernandez drowned after he backed a forklift off the dock, which had no guardrail, on May 25.

"We believe the lack of (railings), contributed to the accident," Traenkner said.

Theo Rohr, who helped pull Fernandez from the water, said railings would have prevented the death.

A temporary railing was erected at Barbers Point a couple of days after the accident.

Hawaii Stevedores and OSHA are continuing to investigate why Fernandez, a veteran and skilled stevedore, backed off the dock.

The city is investigating why it took 19 minutes for ambulances to arrive at the scene.

"We have always been in compliance and will continue to be," said Kenneth Hipp, attorney for Hawaii Stevedores. "We don't believe we committed any violations."

The state must maintain the location, Hipp said. Hawaii Stevedores has not been cited for the Fernandez accident.

"We don't have the right to change the piers," Hipp said. "When we do work in the area, we're responsible to make sure they're safe in the area. And we've done that." The state Harbors Division had no comment.

In an accident in which an employee was injured in a fall in December, Hawaii Stevedores has contested a $135,000 fine that OSHA issued last week.

OSHA said the company was cited for five violations in connection with the fall. Hawaii Stevedores has also been cited 40 previous times in the 1990s. Included in the previous violations was a $18,000 fine given to Hawaii Stevedores in 1993 for violating "fall protection" laws.

According to OSHA, the company did not train its employees or take steps in fall protection, which caused the latest monetary fine to increase. "That's why we're frustrated," Traenkner said.

Hipp said he couldn't comment on prior violations.

2 deaths, 2 injuries

Accidents involving Hawaii Stevedores:

Bullet May 25, 1999: Edgar Fernandez, 56, was killed after he backed a forklift off the pier and into the water. OSHA said the pier was not equipped with the proper rails to prevent the vehicle from falling off the dock. The investigation is continuing.

Bullet Dec. 4, 1998: Ron Saffery, 54, was injured when he fell 32 feet from the top of shipping containers stacked four high. OSHA said Saffery didn't have the required fall protection or training. Hawaii Stevedores fined $135,000 for five violations.

Bullet Jan. 2, 1996: A 36-year-old man was injured when the truck he was driving was lifted 15 feet by a crane, then dropped. Hawaii Stevedores fined $4,000 for one violation.

Bullet June 11, 1994: A man was killed after he was run over by a five-ton Caterpillar truck. Hawaii Stevedores fined $15,000 for three violations.

Source: U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration

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