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After Diver's Death, Maryland Army Center Gets OSHA Citations for Serious Violations

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
By Bruce Rolfsen

The death of a civilian technician who was working more than 100 feet underwater has resulted in the Army's Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland facing seven alleged serious violations, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Aug. 1.

No fines were proposed against the Army because, as a federal agency, the Army is exempt from OSHA fines. The military branches can be cited for violations of OSHA rules, however, when civilian workers are affected.

The diver, George Lazzaro Jr., 41, died Jan. 30 while working at a depth of 127 feet in the center's Underwater Explosion Test Facility, the Army said in a statement after the death. The facility is a man-made pond that is 1,070 feet long.

OSHA cited the center for seven alleged serious violations and four alleged other-than-serious violations.

The serious violations of OSHA's commercial diving standard (29 C.F.R. § 1910 Subpart T) include allowing a worker with inadequate experience and training to serve as the task's person in charge; allowing workers to dive without classroom and hands-on training for their tasks that day; failing to have a standby diver available during the task; failing to have the divers stay in constant visual contact with their buddy divers; and failing to have a qualified person in charge of the operations after the designated person in charge dove into the pond.

The other-than-serious violations include failing to have decompression tables and a safe practices manual available at the dive site.

The test pond, also called the Super Pond, has been closed to civilian divers since the accident, pending the completion and review of the Army's own investigations, a center spokeswoman told BNA Aug. 5. The Army has not decided whether it will contest the OSHA findings, the spokeswoman said.

Less than a month after Lazzaro's death, two Navy military divers died while training in the pond on Feb. 26. Their unit had been allowed to practice in the pond because the mission did not require Army personnel and had been scheduled prior to the Jan. 30 death, the Army said in a news release at the time. Following the Navy deaths, the pond was closed to all diving.

The Navy divers' deaths were investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The Navy is pursuing charges of involuntary manslaughter and dereliction-of-duty against two Navy noncommissioned officers.

Text of the citations is available at /uploadedFiles/Content/News/Legal_and_Business/Bloomberg_Law/Legal_Reports/AberdeenCitation(2).pdf.

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