San Diego County

Seattle Company Fined $200K in Longshoreman's Death at Port of San Diego

A Seattle company was fined more than $200,000 for multiple safety violations that resulted in the death of a longshoreman at the Port of San Diego. 

Phillip Vargas, 54, was killed on Jan. 3 in an industrial accident at the 10th Street Terminal in Barrio Logan.

Vargas was operating a forklift when he struck a cement pillar and fell out of the forklift. The forklift continued to move, running over Vargas.

An investigation conducted by Cal/OSHA found the employee was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the incident. 

Also, the forklift had multiple safety devices disabled, including a seatbelt warning buzzer. 

The vehicle's mast interlock system was also disabled, investigators said. It is designed to disconnect power from the hydraulic lift when the operator is unseated. 

SSA Pacific Inc, a division of SSA Marine, was issued six citations with penalties totaling $205,235.

One of the citations was for a willful-serious violation stating SSA Pacific did not make sure its employees did safety checks for forklifts at the beginning of each shift. Cal/OSHA officials said the company was cited for a similar violation in 2016 following an inspection at the Port of Long Beach.

“Safety has been and always will be the number priority for SSA Marine operations," the company said in a statement Tuesday. "Our primary goal is to provide our employees a safe and healthy work place. We are studying the OSHA findings carefully and will discuss these findings with OSHA. As we pride ourselves on having the safest operations on the waterfront, we take any findings against our operations most seriously and will obviously act on any improvement opportunity in liaison with all relevant stakeholders.“

Family members said Vargas was a third-generation longshoreman who had worked on the waterfront since the age of 16. He was a heavy lift operator and instructor at the time of his death.

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