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October 22, 1998

Shipyard worker safety and health initiative launched

TUMWATER - With every Washington shipyard worker more likely than not to be injured sometime in the coming year, the state and federal government have launched a joint initiative to improve worker safety and health in the ship building and repairing industry.

The state Department of Labor & Industries will join the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration in a joint effort that will include coordinated safety and health inspections in shipyards and aboard vessels. L&I's jurisdiction is limited to dockside workers, while OSHA is responsible for water-borne operations.

Shipbuilding and repair is by far Washington's most hazardous industry for workers. Federal statistics show that in 1996 (most recent year for data) 56.7 out of every 100 workers were injured or became ill from work during the year. This means that, on average, a shipyard worker in Washington is more likely than not to be injured or become ill on the job.

"That is unacceptable," said L&I Director Gary Moore. "There is no reason why we can't make shipyards safer and more healthful worksites for workers. This initiative is a step toward making that happen."

Richard Terrill, acting regional administrator for OSHA, agreed.

"By working together, OSHA and WISHA hope to improve compliance with applicable safety and health standards, and reduce the rates of injury and illnesses in this industry." Terrill also pointed out that the injury and illness rate has risen steadily from 36.5 in 1993 to the 56.7 rate of 1996.

Moore expressed confidence that this trend can be turned around, but pointed out it's going to require the cooperation of employers and workers, as well.

"This has to be a partnership with everyone involved participating," he said.

Affected Washington employers and workers have been notified by mail of the impending compliance initiative. Moore said that the coordinated inspection effort will minimize disruption to normal operations and eliminate any duplicative efforts.

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