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OSHA cites Six Flags with 38 safety violations
BY MICHAEL SEAN COMERFORD | Daily Herald Business Writer
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Published: 9/10/2007 12:00 PM | Updated: 9/10/2007 2:55 PM

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Already on a watch list for companies with high rates of injuries and illnesses, Six Flags Great America in Gurnee today garnered 38 safety violation citations and $117,700 in recommended fines.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleged multiple serious and repeat violations at the amusement park, ranging from defective emergency brakes on an industrial truck to a lack of labeling procedures for preventing inadvertent machine start-ups.

"This is a significant fine for serious violations," said Scott Allen, spokesman for OSHA.

OSHA said it inspected Six Flags theme parks five times since a 2004 fatality at Great America, in which Great America was cited for failure to provide proper machine guarding. Previous to today's announcement, the chain of 16 theme parks had been cited four times for safety violations.

In May 2004, a Zion resident was hit by a roller coaster and died of his injuries. The employee, Jack E. Brouse, 52, had been working on the Ragin' Cajun roller coaster at Great America and was next to the track when he was hit by a passing car full of riders, according to the report.

After that inspection, OSHA fined Great America $8,867, according to Allen.

Last month, a 52-year-old man was performing routine maintenance on a locomotive when he fell from the top of the train about 20 feet to tracks below. The man was flown via helicopter to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge due to the possibility of spinal injuries.

A Great America spokes-woman said she may have a comment on the OSHA fines later today.

OSHA's most recent inspection was prompted by its Site Specific Targeting program, which identifies companies with a track record of injuries and illnesses. To be on the list, a company's injury rate must be above the national average.

The violations include failure to use approved pumps to dispense flammable liquids and improper storage; sprinkler heads in a spray booth covered with unapproved polyethylene bags; exits not properly marked; damaged ladders; inoperable eyewash station; improper machine guarding for wood and metal cutting equipment; circuit breaker boxes used to disconnect machines not properly marked for lockout/tagout procedures "which are intended to prevent inadvertent machine start-ups," OSHA said in its press release.

Penalties also were recommended for repeat offenses, including the absence of powered industrial nameplates, obstructed exit routes and inadequate housekeeping.

The Gurnee park's parent company, New York-based Six Flags Theme Parks, employs 35,800 employees nationwide and about 2,500 workers in Gurnee, OSHA said.

Great America can appeal the recommended citations and fines. The theme park has until October to correct the violations, Allen said.

OSHA inspections search for safety violations affecting workers, not the public. So what affect the violations could have had on the public was not addressed.

Daily Herald Staff Writer Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.