AUGUSTA — The city has addressed all 143 workplace safety violations identified by the state Department of Labor following an in-depth inspection last October.

State officials have also agreed to waive all of the $7,000 in fines first levied against Augusta, charging the city only an administrative fee of $250.

Pamela Megathlin, director of the state Bureau of Labor Standards, said in an August letter to the city that she determined all citations had been corrected following a discussion between city and state officials, and the final amount the city owed the state was $250.

City Manager William Bridgeo said Monday 95 percent of the violations cited by the state have been completely remedied, and all that have not been fully fixed are in the process of being fixed.

He said some items, such as a lack of the proper safety barricades at a recycling bin at Hatch Hill landfill, required time to engineer the proper fix, and then the work installing that fix had to be bid out, a process he said is still ongoing for that and a couple of other items.

“Everything has either been fixed or is in the process of being fixed, and the Department of Labor is satisfied with our progress,” Bridgeo said. “Many of the issues were fixed within hours or days of when they were raised.”

Many of the violations Augusta was cited for were similar, but separate violations found across multiple city facilities and departments. They included multiple citations for some employees not having received annual training in skills such as handling blood if there were an accident and procedures for ensuring equipment or vehicles have safety devices so they can’t be operated while they are being worked on.

One problem that made the inspection report repeatedly was extension cords only meant to be used temporarily being used long-term, frayed or otherwise damaged extension cords being used, electrical plugs that should have had three prongs only having two, and electric power strips being plugged into other electric power strips.

Other violations included a magnetic safety switch on a baler at the Hatch Hill landfill being bypassed with a magnet so it could be operated with its door open, unlabeled containers of chemicals at public works and other departments, tools in multiple departments without the proper guards in place, and employees, including some in the Fire Department, not being fit-tested for respirator masks or using the wrong type of mask.

Kristy Gould, human resources director for the city, said the multiple-day inspection was in-depth and the first such inspection of city facilities by the department in about 15 years.

Bridgeo praised Gould for working to address the state’s concerns, noting the city’s conscientious response to the matter helped convince the state to waive all fines other than a mandatory $250 administrative fee.

He said Gould led the efforts to remedy the identified problems and also had great cooperation from city department heads and bureau directors.

The city initially proposed a fine of $7,000, though officials noted even then that such fines typically are negotiated down, as long as municipalities correct the workplace safety problems identified.

Julie Rabinowitz, director of communications for the state Department of Labor, said at the time of the citation the goal of state officials was not to financially penalize municipalities, but rather to get municipalities to correct the problems. She said negotiating fines down is common, as long as a municipality is cooperative and expresses a desire to fix the problems.

“The city has a strong safety committee made up of employees of all ranks, and our workers compensation experience modification (a calculation based upon past workplace accidents used to determine insurance rates) has consistently been going down in recent years,” Bridgeo said. “So even though there were definitely things legitimate with the Department of Labor inspections, I don’t want people to have the impression we don’t pay attention to workplace safety, because we do.”

The city put a copy of the inspection report on its website.

“Please accept my thanks to you and your staff for your expeditious attention in this matter,” Megathlin said in her letter to Bridgeo, noting all citations had been corrected and $250 will be the final amount due from the city. “Through our combined efforts we continue the safety and health in Maine workplaces.”

Bridgeo said other municipalities that have undergone similar inspections have received similar numbers of violations.

A 2013 inspection of city of Saco facilities resulted in 106 citations, one in 2013 in Sanford found 93 violations, and a 2012 inspection in Yarmouth resulted in 170 citations, according to state Department of Labor data.

When the inspection report’s results were first revealed to the city, city officials disputed some of its findings, but said they would work with the state rather than contest the report’s findings.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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