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OSHA proposes fines in death of casino construction workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued proposed fines of $85,575 against three companies in the March drowning of two construction workers during the demolition of hurricane-damaged Grand Casino in Gulfport.

The two construction workers drowned after passing out from hazardous fumes, Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said.

The men were pumping water out of a portion of the casino that collapsed during Hurricane Katrina when the accident occurred. Officials believe the two, working in water about six feet deep, became trapped in a tight space.

The workers were identified as Tim Fitzgerald, 49, of Newport News, Va., and Miguel Hidalgo-Soberano, 48, of Cardenas Tabasco, Mexico.

The men, employed by Dominion Marine Group LTD of Norfolk, Va., were part of a marine team working with PRC Environmental, a Houston, Texas, company that dismantled the barge.

“This tragic accident would have been prevented if the employer had tested for toxic gas and followed OSHA’s confined space regulations,” Clyde Payne, director of OSHA’s Jackson area office, said in statement Tuesday.

Payne said OSA proposed fines of $69,600 to Dominion Marine for allowing the workers into an area know to contain hydrogen sulfide gas without testing for safe levels of the chemical. The company also was cited for failing to test the area for flammable gas, failing to properly secure compressed gas cylinders and using damaged welding-gas pressure regulators.

Payne said PRC Environmental was cited for similar violations with a proposed fine of $15,675. He said a fine of $300 was proposed for Advanced Demolition.

The companies have 15 working days to appeal the OSHA citations and proposed fines.

When the hurricane slammed ashore on Aug. 29, 2005, part of the Gulfport Grand was ripped off its moorings in the Mississippi Sound and heaved onto coastal U.S. 90.

On the Net:

OSHA: http://www.osha.gov