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Federal inspectors cite Six Flags for 'serious, repeat' safety violations

Waukegan News Sun

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September 11, 2007

GURNEE -- Six Flags Great America faces nearly $200,000 in fines from a multitude of employee safety violations.

The theme park racked up 67 health and safety workplace violations during summer inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The violations range from unsafe ladders for employees to excessive exposure to lead in painting areas. All violations are classified as "serious" by OSHA and carry separate fines that could add up to $193,700. A serious violation is classified as one that could cause serious harm or death in the event of an accident.

The violations aren't all that terrible separately, but they add up, said Diane Turek, OSHA's area director.

Turek said the park was investigated on separate occasions from March though June this year. Six Flags was informed of the violations Friday.

"It was a comprehensive inspection, and there were lots of violations. We don't (usually) see that many," Turek said.

Great America officials downplayed the citations on Monday. Park spokeswoman Brooke Gabbert said that no guests were in danger.

Additionally, Gabbert said the park cannot comment on the specifics of each violation, but they are reviewing the citations and will follow OSHA's appeals process to resolve the fines.

"The safety of our employees and our guests has always been our top priority," Gabbert said.

The majority of the violations occurred in behind-the-scenes areas, notably, the painting and fiberglass department. One safety violation cited lead exposure at "greater than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over an eight-hour period." The OSHA report states that on May 10 lead levels were measured at 56 micrograms per cubic meter.

Sixty-three of the violations were for new violations. OSHA also issued four citations for repeat serious violations, with proposed penalties of $27,700 for defective emergency brakes on a powered industrial truck, absence of powered industrial nameplates, obstructed exit routes and inadequate housekeeping.

Six Flags' violations were the first for the Gurnee park since 2004, when OSHA cited six, including one following the death of an employee from Zion. In May 2004, Jack E. Brouse, 52, was injured while doing maintenance work on the Ragin' Cajun roller coaster. Great America was fined nearly $9,000 at the time.

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