(UPDATED: July 6, 7:15 p.m. ET with response from W8)
The U.S. Department of Labor is preparing to impose nearly $380,000 in penalties on W8 Shipping LLC, an ocean freight wholesaler, for two dozen safety violations at the company’s warehouse adjacent to the Port of Savannah.
The Los Angeles-based shipping company, which specializes in exporting secondhand automobiles, boats and heavy machinery, “willfully” exposed 43 workers at the Garden City, Georgia, facility to potentially deadly hazards by allowing them to work with automobiles and motorcycles suspended overhead, the department said Friday.
Inspectors with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that workers could have been struck or crushed by falling vehicles elevated by forklifts during loading and unloading. W8 Shipping, which functions as an ocean carrier but doesn’t own its own vessels, also failed to provide eye protection to workers changing liquid propane tanks and using nail guns. OSHA inspectors also cited the company for allowing flammable wood dust to build up on electrical outlets and equipment, floors and other machinery.
“For decades, established safety standards have been in place to protect workers from dangers that W8 Shipping’s employees face and yet the company chose to ignore federal regulations,” said Heather Sanders, OSHA’s acting area director for the Savannah area. “When it comes to workplace safety, shortcuts are the quickest route to serious injuries or worse.”
Inspectors also found W8 Shipping permitted employees to drive powered industrial trucks with obstructed views and without instruction, training or regular evaluations, and sometimes with unstable loads, and allowed employees to work on the trailers at heights over six feet without fall protection.
W8 Shipping disagreed with OSHA’s findings.
“W8 Shipping is an industry leader fully committed to the health and safety of its employees and throughout its 15 years of existence shipping tens of millions of cars across the globe, W8 Shipping has never had one serious injury or fatality and has never had any prior OSHA citations or violations. . . . W8 Shipping adheres to industry best practices,” Darius Ziulpa, a company official, said in an email statement to FreightWaves. “Unfortunately, due in large part to the lack of clear guideline specific to automobile container loading and unloading, W8 Shipping, under its own initiative, and long before OSHA conducted its recent site inspections, W8 had already made extraordinary financial investment into developing new operating procedures and even fabricating new safety equipment and redundancies which do not currently exist in the marketplace to improve upon the current standards used in containerized automobile shipping around the U.S. and abroad. This is why W8 Shipping remains disappointed by the allegations raised by the Savannah Area OSHA Office, but the company nevertheless remains confident in the process.”
Ziulpa said the company has engaged in positive talks with OSHA and expects a “positive resolution” of the case.
OSHA also cited W8 Shipping for:
- Exposing employees to corrosive materials, such as damaged car batteries, without suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body.
- Not training designated employees on how to use firefighting equipment.
- Not clearly marking pedestrian passageways when powered industrial trucks were in close proximity, which put people in danger of being struck.
- Not ensuring that all forklift operators completed training.
- Not conducting a performance evaluation of each forklift operator every three years.
- Employees being positioned between a moving powered industrial truck and the inside wall of a shipping container, exposing them to potential crushing.
- Use of a miter saw without proper guarding in place.
- Exposing workers to electrical hazards by allowing damaged motorcycles, pallets and barrels of chains to be stored in front of electrical panels.
W8 Shipping operates warehouses in Carson City, California; Jersey City, New Jersey; La Porte, Texas; and Tacoma, Washington. Sister company G&G Auto Sales acquires automobiles through private auctions around the country and sells them to overseas customers.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent OSHA commission.
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