The Sun - October 24, 1991

Shipyard claims it's safe, has no need for OSHA
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard hit, broadside by charges of a lax safety program, today returned fire a statement saying it considers workers' health to be very important.

By Lloyd Pritchett 
Sun Staff

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard officials today disputed a labor group's contention that a recent incident in which engineers were pelted with debris during a re-roofing project posed a safety hazard.

The Sept. 24 incident was described in a letter delivered Monday to Labor Secretary Lynn Martin during a rally in Washington, D.C., sponsored by an international engineers union.

The union cited it as an example of lax safely program at the yard.

According to the letter, bird droppings in the roof debris that fell on workers contained a fungus that scars lung tissue.

But PSNS officials today said today in a prepared statement that yard "has no information on bird droppings being found in the roof debris, or of any analysis so indicating."

"Further, the shipyard is not aware of anything in the occurrence which imposed a health hazard to the employees involved, nor have any subsequent indications of such problems been reported," the statement said.

"PSNS considers its work force and their well being its paramount interest," the statement said.

The incident, at PSNS Building 455, was one of several described in the letter, from the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, to Labor Secretary Martin. None of the other incidents were at PSNS.

The union said safety could be improved at PSNS and other federal facilities if the law were changed to put them under the direct control of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as private employers are.

But PSNS said in its statement today that the shipyard already abides by all OSHA requirements, and no changes are necessary in the law.

The yard also said it has no evidence suggesting that work at private shipyards, which are over seen by OSHA are safer than at PSNS.

Nevertheless, the statement conceded that improvements in its safety program "will always be possible and are continuously being pursued. 

In the re-roofing incident, the Navy statement said, the shipyard public works contracts division found no dangerous material in the roof, such as asbestos, before me work began.

After the work began, small debris began falling onto office worker below because of a hidden condition in the roof framing system.

Temporary plastic coverings were installed over the work area, but after debris continued to fall, "the decision was made that relocation of personnel was necessary," the statement said.

Leave was granted to all employees who requested it. Ten employees took regular leave and none took sick leave except for one employee who had a previously scheduled appointment, the statement said.

"The shipyard initiated corrective action to resolve the problem once it developed," the statement said.