The Situation: You are the EH&S professional at your company’s shipyard. You have just received a call from a production supervisor that there has been a very serious near miss accident out in the assembly area. Your company is manufacturing the second Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) for the US Navy. This new generation high speed, trimaran design warship has been designed to carry out a wide range of tactical, combat, and support operations in the near-shore (littoral) environment. The project is over budget and has received a considerable amount of criticism for it. Successful completion of the project at this phase will be a prime determinant in whether or not your company can secure the very lucrative follow-up contracts for more LCSs. Everyone in the shipyard feels the pressure to complete this project ASAP.
Apparently a very large 20-ton overhead crane had some cables snap and has partially collapsed while trying to hoist a large section of the vessel into place for its final welding operation. When you arrive on scene, you see the section wedged overhead between some support beams and walkways. About a dozen hourly workers are scattered about as they leaped to safety after hearing the cables snap. There are many bumps, bruises and scratches on the workers, but they all are able to be treated internally at your nurse’s office. In this initial assessment, there appears to be no need for or request on the part of the employees to go to any outside medical consultant or hospital emergency room.
Almost immediately, you can hear the men complaining that the first attempt to lift the unit did not work, and the production engineer has decided to “jury rig” some extra cables to lift the unit into place. In addition, one individual said that they were trying to hoist about 28-30 tons, and that was just too much for the old crane. Another offered that the cables themselves had not been changed out in a couple of years, and that was against OSHA regulations. Everyone said that they could hear the unit groan and screech before the cables snapped and the crane partially collapsed.
Before you walk off with the supervisors to inspect the damage, one of the workers offers the opinion that this is an “imminent danger” situation. About 30 minutes later, you are meeting with the engineers and supervisors on one of the overhead platforms continuing your inspection of the damage when a supervisor comes up and tells you that he has heard that an hourly employee has just called OSHA and told them of the situation and that they used the term “imminent danger” in their conversation.
The Questions: What are your most important concerns? What should you do next? What information is the most critical for you to have right away? What directions would you give to the supervisors and engineers? When should you inform your facility manager, and what should you tell him/her? Should you meet with the hourly employees? What will you discuss with them? How will you handle the OSHA inspector should one show up in the next few hours?
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