Crane accident not the first tragedy to befall VT Halter

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Two cranes came crashing to the ground at the VT Halter Marine shipyard in Pascagoula on Wednesday, resulting in five injuries. Jackson County EOC Director Earl Etheridge said one of the people injured had to be air lifted to USA Medical Center in Mobile, AL.

This is not the first time emergency teams have rushed to a VT Halter facility.

In 2012, a 66-year-old Pascagoula man died after an industrial accident at the Moss Point shipyard.

Three years earlier, an explosion and fire on board a vessel docked at the Escatawpa facility killed two VT Halter workers and seriously injured two others. Because of that accident, OSHA fined VT Halter more than $1.3 million, and cited the company for 17 willful and 11 serious violations.

"This was a horrific and preventable situation. The employer was aware of the hazards and knowingly and willfully sent workers into a confined space with an explosive and toxic atmosphere," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, in a media release from 2010. "Loss of life can never be something considered acceptable or as a course of doing business."

Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials said willful violations are committed with intentional or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health. Serious citations are issued if there is substantial probability that death or physical harm could result from a hazard the employer knows about.

"VT Halter knowingly and willfully failed to protect the lives of its workers in a confined space even though it had the knowledge and equipment necessary to do so," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels, in a media release from 2010. "We will not tolerate this type of blatant and egregious disregard for the health and safety of workers. Employers need to know there will be consequences."

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