HILO — The Federal Transit Administration isn’t the only U.S. agency finding problems at the county’s beleaguered Mass Transit Agency.
The county earlier this year entered into a settlement agreement with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, over 10 infractions — two of them deemed “serious” — stemming from a Sept. 5 inspection. “Serious,” in OSHA parlance, is used when “there is a high probability death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.”
The county rectified the problems and was fined $4,057 under the informal settlement. Two of the violations were dropped. The case, the only OSHA citations the county received last year, was closed Jan. 24, according to reports on the OSHA website.
The surprise inspection came as former Transit Administrator Maria “Sole” Aranguiz was at the helm. Aranguiz resigned effective Oct. 26. Brenda Carreira, the third administrator in a year, took over Nov. 1.
“All of them have been corrected,” Carreira said Tuesday. “Whatever was required, we did.”
Serious violations included a lack of training in the shop that led to a worker incorrectly using a ladder and a bolt missing from a piece of safety equipment which could have then malfunctioned in case of a fire.
Carreira said the agency has since trained employees and it plans to continue offer training for employees.
Other violations were a lack of training on portable fire extinguishers, failing to mark the rated load on a jack, not providing a product identifier on hazardous chemicals and other hazard communications lapses.
The agency did not “familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage fire fighting,” according to OSHA regulations.
More recently, the state Department of Transportation stepped in and helped rescue $6.9 million in FTA grants at risk because the county Mass Transit Agency hadn’t submitted required reports for three years. The county is now scrambling to enter data into a spreadsheet from more than 8,000 paper reports for one year alone.
The county agency is requesting a significant budget increase as well as four new positions for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The positions, an administrative services assistant, garage supervisor, automotive mechanic and account clerk, are expected to be paid from the county general excise tax surcharge.
Carreira said records management, asset management and compliance are the three priorities as the county works on clearing out the past problems and moving forward in anticipation of an FTA audit next year.
Repeated telephone messages left over several days with the county’s Health and Safety Division, charged with “coordinating all phases of safety and equipment and operator training programs, policies and procedures,” according to its website, were not returned by press-time Wednesday.