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US Department of Labor finds Florida contractor ignored federal safety measures that could have prevented welder’s confined space fatality


April 10, 2024

 

PALATKA, FL – As he had many other days, the morning shift welder arrived at 5 a.m. to work at St. John's Ship Building Inc. in Palatka on Aug. 28, 2023. Tasked with doing some fabrication work in a 4-foot by 8-foot space in a ship’s hull, the employee began work unaware that fatal suffocation would soon end his life.

 

Less than two hours after entering the ship, a supervisor found the unconscious welder and signaled for help, only to fall unconscious as well. A third employee appeared, alerting EMS and the Palatka Fire Department who soon transported all three workers to a nearby hospital. Despite emergency treatment, the welder died from a lack of oxygen. The supervisor and the third worker received medical treatment and were released.

 

Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined St. John’s Ship Building exposed workers to oxygen deficiency by sending the welder into a confined space without first testing the air for oxygen content. The presence of welding gas in the space created an oxygen-deficient atmosphere.

 

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