News Release

US Department of Labor finds prominent South Carolina shipyard ignored federal measures that could have prevented 41-year-old worker’s fatal fall

Incident marks 4th fatality in 5 years at Detyens Shipyards Inc., major defense contractor

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – A major East Coast ship repair and servicing company’s failure to make safety its #1 priority, a promise made on its website, has led to another employee fatality — the fourth in five years — a U.S. Department of Labor workplace safety inspection has found.   

In November 2023, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined a 41-year-old worker at Detyens Shipyards Inc. in North Charleston had fallen almost 20 feet from an unguarded side of a small platform inside a gas tank aboard the U.S. Naval Ship 1st Lt. Jack Lummus. At the time, employees were preparing to flush the cargo vessel’s fuel piping servicing and waiting for their co-worker to descend a ladder. 

“For the fourth time in five years, Detyens Shipyards failed in its primary responsibility to keep its employees safe, and now another worker’s family, friends and co-workers are left to grieve a terrible and needless loss,”  said OSHA Area Office Director Kim Morton in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Since 2014, OSHA has identified dozens of serious violations that are clearly jeopardizing their employees’ lives, and this must end.”

OSHA inspectors cited Detyens Shipyards Inc. for willfully exposing workers to fall hazards by permitting them to access a platform level without guardrails. The agency also identified two serious violations for not providing adequate lighting to work safely in the area and for not making certain workers wear hard hats as others worked above them with hoses, knives, flashlights and other tools. Inspectors also found the employer allowed workers to use a damaged extension cord, an other-than-serious violation. The agency has proposed $190,130 in penalties following the November inspection.

Since 2019, four employees have died on the job at the ship repair and service company, including two others involved in fatal falls in 2020 and 2022. Since 2014, OSHA has identified 33 serious violations in 18 inspections. 

Founded in 1962, Detyens Shipyards Inc. offers three graving docks, enclosed shops for all crafts, eight 56-ton gantry cranes, four tower cranes, rail access and more than 8,000 feet of deepwater pier space and a floating dry dock for smaller vessels. The company is a federal contractor serving the Department of Defense. It employs 510 people in North Charleston. 

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Visit OSHA’s website for information on developing a workplace safety and health program. Employers can also contact the agency for information about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and for free help on complying with OSHA standards, including in industries such as maritime

Learn more about OSHA.

Occupational Safety & Health Administration
May 1, 2024
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Media Contact: Erika Ruthman
Media Contact: Eric R. Lucero
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