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OSHA finds safety violations at Army pond where 3 have died

WASHINGTON — Nearly a dozen safety standards were violated at an Army weapons-testing pond near Baltimore where three people have died this year, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found seven serious violations at the Aberdeen, Md., facility, known as the “Super Pond.” OSHA began investigating after a civilian technician died while performing routine maintenance in the pond on Jan. 30. Four weeks later, two sailors drowned during a routine dive.

The serious violations included improper training for divers; inadequate supervision during dives; allowing dives to be performed without a standby diver; and using breathing air for purposes other than breathing. Serious violations occur when employers knowingly do something that causes a substantial probability of death or serious injury, according to OSHA. The agency also found four less serious violations.

In addition to OSHA, the death of George Lazzero, 41, of Nottingham, Md., is also being investigated by the Army. His cause of death has not been released.

The Navy, meanwhile, is pursuing charges including involuntary manslaughter against two sailors in the Feb. 26 drownings of Diver 1st Class James Reyher, 28, of Caldwell, Ohio, and Diver 2nd Class Ryan Harris, 23, of Gladstone, Mo.

The Super Pond is used to conduct shock testing of vessels, submarine systems and munitions. With a bottom measuring 300 feet in diameter and a maximum depth of 150 feet, the facility also has been used in testing torpedoes, missiles, warheads, amphibious and remotely controlled vehicles, underwater gun firing and acoustics.

The Army must certify that it has corrected the violations by deadlines included in the notice issued this week by OSHA. Most of the serious problems must be fixed by Monday, but the Army has until mid-September to ensure that divers are properly trained and supervised.

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