OSHA finds “serious violations” concerning fatality during prescribed fire in South Carolina

The agency stated, the Army did not furnish “a place of employment free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm”

Nicole Hawkins
Nicole Hawkins, the wildlife biologist at Fort Jackson’s Directorate of Public Works Environmental Department, sets up an artificial cavity box 20 feet up in a tree at Fort Jackson Nov. 6, 2015 in preparation for a soon-to-be arriving endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. (U.S. Army photo by Jennifer Stride/Released)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, found what the agency called “serious violations” after investigating the death of a wildlife biologist at Fort Jackson Army Base in South Carolina.

Angela (Nicole) Chadwick-Hawkins was killed while she was working on a prescribed fire at Fort Jackson May 22, 2019. Little information about the fatality has been released by the Army such as the mechanism of injury or cause of death. Family members have said she was found with fuel on her body near a burned all terrain vehicle that she had been operating.

ATVs are often used on prescribed fires for transportation, to haul supplies, or as a platform for an ignition device.

Eric Lucero, a Public Affairs Specialist with the Department of Labor, said OSHA’s Violation Notice stated that Fort Jackson did not furnish “a place of employment free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm, in that employees were exposed to burn hazards associated with control burning of forest vegetation.” And, on the day of the fatality Fort Jackson failed to ensure that employees “were protected from fire hazards while igniting or controlling the burn areas.”

OSHA suggested that Fort Jackson develop a mandatory procedure for igniting burns that includes use of a tracking system so that employees could be easily located.

OSHA did not impose a monetary fine on Fort Jackson or the Army but they required that the violations be abated by November 14, 2019. A person outside of OSHA who is familiar with the incident told us the violations have been abated.

In addition to OSHA, at least four other entities have been conducting investigations about the fatality, including:

  1. An internal Fort Jackson inquiry,
  2. Army Criminal Investigations Division (CID). (The CID automatically investigates most fatalities on Army bases, so their involvement does not necessarily mean criminal activity was suspected.)
  3. Army Safety Office, and
  4. U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Ms. Hawkins, a mother of three, had worked as a civilian at the base since 2007, with much of her time spent helping to bring back an endangered species, the red-cockaded woodpecker. One of the techniques used to improve the bird’s habitat is the use of prescribed fire.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

2 thoughts on “OSHA finds “serious violations” concerning fatality during prescribed fire in South Carolina”

    1. Before I could agree with you I would want to read the complete accident investigation report and the complete OSHA report.

      imo, one could apply the broad OSHA statement to every wildfire and Rx burn of, “a place of employment free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm, in that employees were exposed to burn hazards associated with control burning of forest vegetation.” And, on the day of the fatality Fort Jackson failed to ensure that employees “were protected from fire hazards while igniting or controlling the burn areas.”
      I was on an accident investigation team in the 80’s that involved an injury to a firefighter during initial attack. While the responding forces did have an EMT qualified person, OSHA cited the unit for not having adequate medical care available and being to far from hospitals. The fire was in a very remote area. I don’t know what more the unit could have done.

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