Lack of Warning Signs May Have Led to Road Worker’s Death

September 23rd, 2014

construction conesAccording to court testimony by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC), an accident in which a car veered into a crew of road workers on a St. John’s highway was largely due to a lack of road signs in the area before the work zone.

The accident occurred about three years ago, on July 5, 2011. about 1 PM, as a work crew from the city of St. John’s, the Newfoundland Department of Transportation and Works (DTW) and Irving Oil Co. assembled on a portion of the TransCanada Highway to inspect the roadway for premature erosion. It was then that the driver of an SUV swerved to avoid crashing into the vehicle in front of him, then lost control of his vehicle and slammed into three road workers, one of whom died.

For the accident, the City of St. John’s and DTW are each facing seven charges for violations of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act, while Irving oil faced six counts. And in open court, RNC Constable Barry Osmond, who is the lead police investigator, testified that there was nothing on the road warning drivers that they should be aware of road workers road or that they should slow down. He also noted that, of the nine workers at the worksite, only three were wearing high visibility gear, including one of the workers who was hit. There was no signage before the worksite; the only warning available to oncoming traffic that the worksite even existed was a small amber light on top of one DTW vehicle. He cited all of these are significant factors that led to the accident.

The driver of the SUV was inexperienced, having only been licenced for three months at the time, but he is not facing any charges, and the Constable felt he was not at fault in the accident, in part because of the lack of evidence of any distractions or that he did anything wrong. He said that, based on the evidence, drivers were coming up on these vehicles stopped on the road, and one of them slow down, causing a bit of a chain reaction.

Get Ready for Ontario MOL Materials Handling Safety Blitz

September 22nd, 2014

InvestigatorThe latest inspection blitz by the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) is currently underway, and you should make sure your workplace is ready for it.

The current blitz began on September 15. The focus of this one will be hazards associated with materials handling, including storage, loading and unloading, and the movement of goods throughout the workplace. Inspectors from the MOL will be making visits to a number of factories, plants and other workplaces within the industrial sector, in order to make sure that employers are taking proper precautions to make sure workers are as safe as possible while handling supplies and materials.

In particular, MOL inspectors will be taking a look at the condition of lift trucks, forklifts and other lifting devices, to make sure the machines are not carrying more than their rating allows, and to make sure that all such equipment is in good working order and well-maintained, and that operators are qualified and properly trained and supervised while operating equipment or handling materials.

Inspectors will also be taking a close look at whether or not workers are being provided with safe and secure access to work areas, including making sure that workers don’t have to take unreasonable risk to get into the workplace, and that there are no obstacles to access. They will also make sure that each workplace has a fall protection plan, and that all workers are able to perform their tasks safely, while wearing appropriate fall protection equipment.

In addition to making sure workers are safe in their daily tasks, MOL inspectors will also work to make sure that all materials and supplies in the workplace are being stored in a safe and secure manner.  this particular blitz will continue through October 26, 2014, so if you haven’t been targeted yet, there’s still plenty of time to get your workplace ready.

OSHA Strengthens Workplace Reporting Rules

September 19th, 2014

hazard signThe US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a final revised rule regarding the reporting of severe injuries to the agency. The new rule places an obligation on all employers to notify OSHA of a worker fatality within eight hours, and when a worker is injured badly enough to require hospitalization, OSHA must be notified within 24 hours.

Under previous rules, employers were required to report every work-related fatality, but they were only required to report hospitalizations when they involved three or more employees. Beginning January 1, 2015, employers must report all individual hospitalizations, as well as amputations or the loss of an eye.

The new rule will apply to all workplaces that fall under federal OSHA jurisdiction, even those workplaces that qualify for an exemption from routinely recording worker injuries and illnesses. Such an exemption applies to employers with 10 or fewer employees. But to make it easy for all employers, OSHA is in the process of designing a web portal for employers, so they have the option of recording every incident electronically, in addition to reporting by phone.

As part of their announcement, OSHA officials reminded employers that every single workplace injury and fatality that occurs is potentially preventable. The purpose for the new reporting requirements will be to place greater responsibility on employers to prevent accidents, by making them more accountable. Any employer who knows that OSHA will always be aware of a serious injury at their workplace will also be more likely to prevent another one.

Young Alberta Workers Killed in Saskatchewan Accident

September 18th, 2014

hardhatTwo young workers from Alberta have been killed in a horrible workplace accident in Fox Valley, Saskatchewan, which is located nearly 40 km east of the Alberta/Saskatchewan boundary.

The accident occurred last week, as a work crew of three men were working on a sewer line, and two of them fell about four metres into sewer lines. The falls were then followed by a partial collapse of the sewer line.

When they arrived, first responders and rescue workers were overwhelmed by noxious fumes, but they were eventually able to pull one of the workers, a 25-year-old man, to the surface. He was then taken to Maple Creek Hospital, where he was pronounced dead soon after.

Not long after that, a local farmer showed up and brought equipment that allowed rescue workers to pull the second victim out. The 24-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police withheld the names of both workers, and simply gave their age and reported that both men were from Calgary. Autopsies were conducted and the Office of the Chief Coroner continues to investigate. in addition to that investigation, Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety is also conducting a workplace safety investigation.

“Weak Safety Culture” Led to Québec Train Disaster

September 17th, 2014

Two locomotivesIn a new report from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board last week, the importance of a strong safety culture in a company has never been more apparent than it was last year when a massive oil train explosion in downtown Lac-Megantic, Québec killed 47 people.

The TSB cited a total of 18 factors that played a role in the tragedy, but the most prominent reason cited was that rail company Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways decided to cut corners, including doing so on safety. In addition to the rail company’s inattention to safe practices, the TSB also blamed Transport Canada for its failure with regard to its oversight responsibilities.

The accident itself was the worst in Canada in 150 years. A little over a year ago, a runaway train containing 72 cars full of oil derailed, then slid down a steep incline before crashing into downtown Lac-Megantic, Québec. The resulting massive explosion leveled 40 buildings.

The train in question had been parked on the rail line overnight before it somehow became loose. According to the TSB, whose responsibility it is to investigate rail, air and marine accidents, at the heart of everything was what they referred to as a “weak safety culture” at the company, including poor training of workers and tank cars that were not properly sealed and protected. Rather than spend the money to upgrade its equipment, the company instead decided to limit the speed of its trains on certain routes. Since the accident, the company has gone bankrupt, so in the long run they didn’t actually save any money.

TSB officials noted that Transport Canada was not auditing railways often enough and was not thorough in their audits, so they were unaware of how rail companies were managing risk. Worse, Transport Canada knew MMA was having difficulties, but they failed to follow up. As a result, the Transport Ministry has promised to act quickly and decisively on implementing all of the TSB’s recommendations.

Several months ago, Quebec prosecutors charged Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Canada Co. and three employees with a total of 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death, and a number of class-action lawsuits against the company have been filed.

Roofing Company Facing $294k in Fines for Fall Hazards

September 16th, 2014

roofersAccording to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Connecticut-based Gleason Roofing Co. deliberately and repeatedly failed to implement essential and legally required fall protection for workers at two worksites, thus exposing workers to potentially fatal falls. As result, the roofing contractor faces $294,000 in fines.

According to OSHA officials in Hartford, the roofing employees were exposed to falls of as much as 16 feet as they ripped shingles from a roof during one inspection, while a later inspection showed workers exposed to 10 foot falls while performing the same activity. Inspectors found numerous other fall hazards at both sites, including ladders that were not extended at least 3 feet above landings, which ensures proper stability, and workers who were improperly climbing ladders. They also noted that some workers were not properly protected from electrocution as they worked in close proximity to live power lines.

As result of all of these violations, OSHA cited Gleason for four willful violations of fall protection standards, carrying a total of $280,000 in fines, and two serious violations, carrying a total of $14,000 in fines.

In their report, OSHA also noted that falls are the most prominent and dangerous hazard for construction workers. In 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three Connecticut construction workers died from falls. This, despite the fact that OSHA claims that falls are among the most easily preventable hazards, as long as employers take their responsibility seriously and supply proper fall protection and make sure all workers use it.

Construction Fire Brings Multiple MOL Charges

September 15th, 2014

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has laid 22 charges against Jay Patry Enterprises Inc., in relation to an incident in Kingston that led to a fire that left a construction worker in hospital with burns, and required a dramatic rescue by the military.

The incident occurred on Dec. 17, 2013, when crane operator Adam Jastrzebski became stranded on top of a crane at the centre of a fire that had engulfed and destroyed a five-storey apartment building that was under construction.

The 68-year-old crane operator suffered burns to most of his body, including his back, hands and legs. The intensity of the fire was enormous, and it forced him to crawl along the boom of the crane, before a military helicopter picked him up and was able to airlift him to safety.

The heat of the fire caused windows in nearby buildings to blow out and several buildings, including a hotel and apartment building, were destroyed. Several nearby vehicles caught fire and more than 150 people were forced from nearby homes.

Among the charges lain by the Ministry of Labour include 11 charges related to fire safety precautions, and 11 others resulting from the company’s failure to cooperate with the ministry investigation.

In addition to those charges, Stelmach Property Management Inc. was also charged with two counts of failing to comply with requirements issued by a Ministry of Labour inspector. Ten other charges were laid against three individuals for providing a Ministry of Labour inspector with false information.

The first court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 30.

OSHA Fine of $497k for Failing to Guard Machine

September 12th, 2014

recycling plantThe US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced that it has issued citations against Behr Iron & Steel’s recycling plant in Illinois, due to seven willful and one serious safety violation have resulted from their inspection of the plant after an incident that cost the life of a worker. In all, the company is facing $497,000 in fines.

The accident that led to the citations and fines occurred on March 10, 2014, when the worker, a 37-year-old Hispanic immigrant, became caught in a conveyor belt. According to the OSHA report  on the accident, the worker entered the shredder discharge pit to perform a daily cleaning, an activity that included using a shovel to remove metal scraps that accumulated in the pit and putting them onto a conveyor system to be taken away and disposed of. At the time of the accident, the conveyor was not guarded and the shredder had not been locked out before he and several other workers entered into the pit. The worker was fatally injured when his arm became caught in the conveyor belt.

The OSHA investigation found that company management was well aware that workers were not locking out the shredder and that workers were accessing the pit while conveyors were running because the company felt that having the conveyors running increased the efficiency of the operation. The agency also found that safety training at the plant was sorely lacking, and that Behr Iron & Steel had failed to implement a number of required safety procedures at the plant, including training regarding confined space entry ( the opening to the pit was 2.5 x 3.5′), and hazardous energy control. This, despite the fact that the same company had been cited by OSHA previously for roughly the same conditions at other worksites.  Those repeat violations led to the bulk of the $497,000 fine imposed on the company.

Ontario MOL Blitz Results Show Noncompliance

September 11th, 2014

MOLThe Ontario Ministry of Labour has released the results of a safety blitz their inspectors conducted between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, and the results are not promising for new small businesses.

The MOL inspectors visited new small industrial businesses with fewer than 20 workers, including wood and metal fabrication facilities, industrial services and vehicle manufacturers and service facilities. The results demonstrated that a number of them tend to violate even the most basic legal requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including something as simple as posting a copy of the OHS prominently in the workplace.

Besides failing to post a copy of the OHS Act, some of the other more common compliance orders given by MOL inspectors during the blitz included a failure to prepare a workplace health and safety policy or to maintain a health and safety program. Many failed to appoint a worker health and safety representative and to have that representative conduct regular health and safety inspections. And many failed to train workers on keeping worksites safe.

This particular enforcement initiative promises to be repeated during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Each MOL inspector plans to examine between four and eight small businesses that have not been previously inspected by the ministry or registered with WSIB. Therefore, everyone who is new to the business community should be prepared for such a visit, and not just assume that the MOL will just ignore them for the first year or two.


It’s Our 10th Anniversary!

September 10th, 2014

GF Logo 10Aniversary -rec Today is a very special day for us at Ground Force Training as we celebrate our 10th anniversary.

Since September 10, 2004 we have been training operators, supervisors and various students on motor-graders, snowplows and other heavy equipment vehicles throughout North America.

During this time, we have focused on creating specialized heavy equipment training programs that address the challenges operators face in their work zone.  We conduct our training by concentrating on ‘peer to peer’, ‘on-site’ ‘learn by doing’ strategies.  This provides our valued clients with cost savings, avoiding workplace fines and the reduction of accidents.  We believe a safer workplace can and will improve employee morale and productivity.

Ten years ago, the founder of the company Stan Hudecki, retired from the Canadian Military and turned his skills and training into advanced courses that could be applied to the municipal and private workplace. He joined with several qualified instructors from the Canadian Forces who shared these ‘attention to detail’ and ‘been there – done that – let me show you a better way’ philosophies of instructing. These instructors have worked under the most stressful and challenging conditions imaginable – a great resource for our clients and students.

Ground Force Training has developed strategic alliances with The Association of Ontario Road Supervisors (AORS) and Cobalt Safety Consulting Inc. to expand their capability.

At this time we wish to thank our clients, instructors, partners and staff for helping us achieve this milestone.

Here’s to the next 10 years and to continually expanding our courses to meet the needs of today’s workplace.