OSHRC Docket No. 12529

Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission

August 19, 1977


Before BARNAKO, Chairman; and CLEARY, Commissioner.


Baruch A. Fellner, Counsel for Regional Litigation, Office of the Solicitor, USDOL

Ronald M. Gaswirth, Regional Solicitor, U.S. Department of Labor

Richard Kirkland, Partner, G & G Tong Rental, for the employer




BARNAKO, Chairman:

This case presents the issues of whether Administrative Law Judge Henry F. Martin, Jr., properly (1) affirmed a serious citation alleging violation of 29 C.F.R. 1926.28(a); (2) affirmed a non-serious citation alleging violations of 29 C.F.R. 1910.36(b)(1) and 29 C.F.R. 1926.450(a)(5); and (3) assessed penalties in the respective amounts of $200, $55, and $55.

Respondent used a 75-80 foot high collapsible derrick to service a producing oil well near Denver City, Texas. There was a platform at or near the top on which the derrickman worked. Generally, the derrickman rode the hook under the block of the hoist to go up to or come down from the platform. He did not wear a safety belt tied-off to the hoist. Respondent had not installed an escape slide or geronimo line from the platform to the ground as an emergency or fire escape, and the fixed ladder on the derrick was not [*2] equipped with a ladder safety device.

Respondent did not dispute that these conditions were contrary to the cited standards, but argued before the Judge that the use of safety belts, an escape line, and a ladder safety device would each create additional safety hazards, and that the use of these devices was therefore impractical. As to the safety belts, one of Respondent's partners, Kirkland, testified that a sudden movement of the hoist could cause the derrickman to be pulled off the platform if the belt was tied off to the hoist. He also stated, however, that persons traveling at the heights involved should be protected against falling to the ground, and admitted that a tied-off safety belt would provide such protection. Kirkland testified that the use of a geronimo line was hazardous if it was not properly secured, and that this was difficult to achieve in the well servicing business because the line had to be moved frequently. He stated, however, that such a line, if properly installed, would provide an effective means of leaving the platform in the event of an emergency. Kirland also testified that a great deal of difficulty had been experienced in the industry with ladder [*3] safety devices, but stated that this resulted from the fact that many such devices had been improperly installed. In general Kirkland thought that, because of the cost of the devices mentioned in the citation together with the problems associated with their use, they were economically infeasible.

The Judge considered Respondent's arguments and found that Respondent had violated the cited standards in the manner described in the pleadings. He assessed a total penalty of $310 after evaluating the evidence concerning Respondent's size, good faith, prior history, and the gravity of the violations.

In its petition for review, Respondent asks that we review the Judge's decision but does not point to any specific error committed by the Judge. Respondent has not filed a brief on review. Having examined the entire record, we conclude that the Judge's findings are supported by the preponderant evidence, and that he properly rejected Respondent's arguments. We also hold that the penalties he assessed are appropriate.

Accordingly, the Judge's decision is affirmed.