North Stonington - Lake of Isles has taken steps to protect its golf course employees from lightning and paid $11,600 in fines levied by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the wake of a June 25 incident in which 15 maintenance workers were hurt.
The course, which is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and managed by Troon Golf, paid the fines after reaching an Aug. 30 settlement with OSHA, Archie Cart, the course's general manager, said Tuesday.
Inspectors from OSHA's Hartford office visited Lake of Isles the day after lightning struck near a wooden restroom building on the facility's South Course. The 15 workers sustained injuries while taking shelter in the structure. Two employees suffered second-degree burns.
In a report dated Aug. 16, OSHA cited Lake of Isles for a "serious" violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 for failing to provide a place of employment "free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees …"
OSHA suggested Lake of Isles correct the hazard by following the recommendations of the National Lightning Safety Institute.
In its report, OSHA also cited the golf course for four other serious violations related to the condition of machinery and the storage of equipment. Initially, the fines associated with all five violations totaled $19,200, including $6,300 for the unsafe shelter. The other fines ranged in amount from $2,700 for an improper adjustment on a grinding machine to $3,600 for the storage of oxygen cylinders near fuel-gas cylinders and other combustibles.
The reduction in the total amount of the penalties "reflects prompt corrective action on the part of the employer and the reclassification of the non-lightning items as other than serious violations," Ted Fitzgerald, OSHA's regional director for public affairs, said in an email.
Cart said the building OSHA inspected meets local codes and is properly grounded. A similar building is located on Lake of Isles' North Course. He said contractors had been brought in to suggest ways to make the structures safer.
More significantly, Cart said, the course has purchased an Internet software program that tracks lightning and will enable course management to alert employees when lightning is within 30 miles, giving them time to head for the course's main clubhouse.
OSHA acknowledged the steps Lake of Isles has taken. "The employer has overhauled its response to such incidents to include enhanced communication with employees in the field and have employees relocate to a larger, grounded structure during lightning incidents," Fitzgerald said.
All 15 employees affected by the June lightning strike continue to work at Lake of Isles, Cart said.