PANAMA CITY, FL – Federal workplace safety inspectors examining how thousands of pounds of shifting cargo fatally crushed a 28-year-old worker in a ship’s cargo hold in Panama City found his employer failed to follow required safety standards, including allowing unsafe operation of cargo cranes and not providing training.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration into the incident found a three-person team of employees of Premier Bulk Stevedoring LLC – a marine cargo contractor – was hoisting large rolls of paper onto the vessel M/V Weserborg when the September 2022 incident occurred. OSHA learned a crane operator lacked a clear view of employees in the hold below as they loaded 7-foot-high rolls of paper five at a time – a load weighing about two tons – when the ship pitched and the load crushed the worker against the vessel’s wall.

OSHA cited the Mobile, Alabama, company for one repeat violation and two serious violations. Inspectors determined the employer failed to ensure the crane operator was able to see the signalman guiding the load movement. In December 2020, the agency issued the company a citation for a similar violation after federal inspectors found a crane operator and worker guiding the driver not in the line of sight of each other.

OSHA also cited the employer for their failure to ensure the cargo-handling supervisors completed a course in accident prevention. The agency has proposed $43,750 in penalties.

“Less than two years ago, OSHA cited Premier Bulk Stevedoring for unsafe loading operations and our investigation into this tragic September 2022 fatality found the company again operating in a dangerous manner,” said OSHA Area Office Director Jose Gonzalez in Mobile, Alabama. “Their failure to follow established safety procedures caused a young worker to needlessly lose their life.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Visit OSHA’s website for information on developing a workplace safety and health program. Employers can also contact the agency for information about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and for free help on complying with OSHA standards.

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