In a sobering reminder of the critical importance of workplace safety, Detyens Shipyards Inc., a prominent East Coast ship repair and servicing company, has once again fallen short of its commitment to prioritize employee safety—a promise prominently featured on its website. This lapse has resulted in a tragic incident: the death of an employee, marking the fourth such fatality at the company within the past five years.

The latest incident occurred in November 2023, when a 41-year-old worker tragically fell nearly 20 feet from an unguarded platform inside a gas tank on the U.S. Naval Ship 1st Lt. Jack Lummus. At the time of the accident, the worker was preparing along with others to flush the ship’s fuel piping. This fatal fall highlights a continued pattern of safety failures at Detyens Shipyards.

Kim Morton, OSHA Area Office Director in Raleigh, North Carolina, expressed profound concern over the repeated failures of the shipyard to protect its workers. “For the fourth time in five years, Detyens Shipyards failed in its primary responsibility to keep its employees safe,” Morton stated. Since 2014, OSHA has conducted 18 inspections at the shipyard, identifying 33 serious violations that directly endanger workers’ lives.

In the latest OSHA inspection following the November incident, Detyens Shipyards was cited for willfully exposing workers to fall hazards by not installing guardrails on the platform. The inspection also uncovered two serious violations involving inadequate lighting and the failure to ensure that workers wore hard hats while others worked overhead with potentially dangerous tools. Additionally, a less severe violation was noted for the use of a damaged extension cord. As a result of these findings, OSHA has proposed penalties totaling $190,130.

Detyens Shipyards, which was founded in 1962 and currently employs 510 people at its North Charleston location, is a significant player in the maritime industry, offering extensive facilities including three graving docks, enclosed shops for all crafts, and more than 8,000 feet of deepwater pier space. As a federal contractor serving the Department of Defense, the company’s commitment to safety should be unwavering.

The company now faces a critical decision period, with 15 business days from the receipt of the OSHA citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

This tragic incident serves as a stark reminder of the necessity for constant vigilance and proactive safety measures in all high-risk industries. At NASP, we advocate for rigorous safety standards and the relentless pursuit of workplace environments where such preventable tragedies are a thing of the past. Safety must be more than a promise on a website; it must be a fundamental, actionable commitment to every employee.

About the Author

Jon Knight

Jon Knight leads the NASP Team’s media creation department. He has been involved with workplace safety training since 2017 with a focus on course creation. He also provides video production and voiceovers for NASP content.
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