Cal/OSHA has issued citations to marine cargo handler SSA Pacific Inc. for willful and serious safety violations following the investigation of a fatal forklift accident at the Port of San Diego.

Safety devices disabled

On January 3, a longshoreman was driving a forklift into a transit shed when he collided with a concrete support column and suffered fatal injuries after being thrown from the forklift. Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that the employee was not wearing a seatbelt and that the forklift had multiple safety devices disabled, including a seatbelt warning buzzer and mast interlock system designed to disconnect power from the hydraulic lift when the operator is unseated.

“Forklift safety and training of operators must be taken seriously,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Employers must ensure that seat belts are used and that safety devices such as warning systems to ensure seat belt use are not altered.”

Cal/OSHA issued six citations totaling $205,235 in proposed penalties to SSA Pacific Inc., a division of Seattle-based international marine cargo handler SSA Marine. The citations issued included four serious violations for the employer’s failure to:

  • ensure that forklift operators use seatbelts
  • properly maintain and inspect forklifts
  • ensure operators were effectively trained and for
  • improperly altering forklift safety features.

Not the first time

A general violation was cited for the employer’s failure to establish and maintain an effective heat illness prevention plan. SSA Pacific was also issued a citation for a willful-serious violation as the employer failed to ensure workers perform a forklift safety check at the beginning of each shift and report unsafe conditions, a violation the company was cited for in 2016 following an accident inspection at the Port of Long Beach.

The incident in 2016 occurred when two workers improperly attempted to lift a 15-ton forklift from the hatch of a ship with a crane. One worker was hospitalized overnight for injuries to his ribs and lungs when he was pinned by the mast of the running forklift.