OSHA Hits Tonawanda Coke With More Than $160,000 in Fines

August 12th, 2014

judgementBuffalo, New York-based Tonawanda Coke Corp. is looking at $160,100 in possible fines from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, for a total of 17 alleged safety violations. The investigation came after an explosion at the company’s Tonawanda plant that injured three workers; two permanent workers and a temporary worker.  Tonawanda is a town in the Buffalo suburbs.

OSHA issued a statement last week, in which it said the explosion occurred because the company failed to make sure safety systems were in place and proper precautions had been taken to protect workers. They also took issue with the preventable hazards that existed at the plant and he way in which they were largely overlooked or ignored. The agency noted that conditions at the plant left workers exposed to potential falls, injuries and amputations from machinery hat sometimes activated unexpectedly. Just as troubling was that workers at the plant were unable to quickly and safely exit in an emergency.

In all, Tonawanda Coke was cited for 15 serious violations, worth $90,100 in proposed fines, as well as two repeat violations, worth $70,000 in proposed fines. The repeat violations were for their failure to train employees with regard to lockout procedures and their failure to certify inspections of those procedures.

The explosion, which occurred on Jan. 31, was caused when an over-pressured coke oven manifold released gas from the coke oven into an enclosed area, where it then ignited. The explosion caused brick walls tocollapse and also damaged electrical equipment.

Government officials in New York state have stated that they were shocked that more workers weren’t hurt in the incident. They referred to the safety violations as frightening but unsurprising, and they have asked OSHA to watch the facility closely.

Young Worker’s Death Brings Call for Review of Alberta Child Labour Laws

August 11th, 2014

 ICounseling - In Tearsn the wake of an incident late last month at a gravel pit that took the life of a 15-year-old worker, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has called for a review of the province’s child labour laws.

According to reports, the teen had been working with a conveyer belt machine at an Arjon Construction Ltd. site, and was apparently attempting to remove a jam in the machine when a piece of his clothing became caught and pulled him into the machine.  The worker had only been working with the company at the site for a few weeks, he apparently had received no training on the machine and he wasn’t being supervised at the time of the accident. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Alberta Occupational Health and Safety has launched an investigation.

Following the accident, the AFL issued a statement, pointing out that Alberta’s labour laws covering children and adolescents are among some of the most lax in Canada. They also noted that a recent Employment Standards review by Alberta workplace safety officials offered provincial officials with an opportunity to toughen those standards, but they did nothing.

The AFL also noted that they have recommended ways to improve safety standards and working conditions for young workers. Their latest submission was made on April 11, 2014 and included a number of recommendations, such as conducting targeted inspections of workplaces that hire workers who are 15-17 years old, especially in dangerous occupations like construction. They also suggested a special mandated health and safety training program specifically geared to those employers who hire 15-17 year olds. Another recommendation was to review whether some dangerous activities such as forklift operations and construction work should be prohibited for those under 18 altogether.

Construction Company Fined $90,000 For Worker Fatality

August 7th, 2014

Fall Arrest HarnessAn Ontario commercial and industrial construction company, Symtech Innovations Ltd., was fined $90,000 last week for an incident in which a worker died after falling through a skylight.

The incident that led to the fine happened on February 14, 2012, as a Symtech work crew was installing solar panels on the roof of an industrial building in North York. It was a large rooftop, and it was divided down the center by a row of 20 or so skylights, which sent light through to the main floor, which was roughly five metres below.

A Symtech worker, who was also the acting foreperson at the worksite that day, had been speaking with a co-worker, but when the worker turned and began to walk away, she slipped, Because there were no guardrails at the worksite, she  tried to use the skylight itself to brace the fall. Unfortunately, the skylight wasn’ able to support the worker’s weight and she fell through it, landing on the floor, 15 metres below. The high fall left the worker in hospital with critical injuries. About a week later, she died from those injuries.

The subsequent Ministry of Labour investigation showed that no guardrails or protective coverings had been installed around or over the rooftop skylights, as required by the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).  Symtech pleaded guilty to a violation of the Act, for failing as an employer to install guardrails protective coverings over skylights located on the roof while work was proceeding.

The company was fined $90,000 by Judge Geraldine N. Sparrow at the Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto. In addition to the fine, the Judge also imposed the required 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That makes the total hit to the bottom line $112,500, in addition to losing a valuable worker. Think about that the next time your company decidesto cut corners on safety.

Turtles.. Turtles … Ya Ya Ya

August 7th, 2014


The Problem


South Nation Conservation Authority requested the fence be put up before June 1st. This swamp area is monitored by them for nesting turtles. This is a 1.5km stretch of Turtle Barrier that we had to install in the spring [before nesting] so we could proceed with a rehabilitation contract scheduled for summer. It has to be buried a minimum of 10cm. The Turtles would nest in the shoulder so the fence would allow us to pulverise and pave without disturbing the eggs.

Work Protection

We had TC-2B and TC-21 signs out as well as TCP’s at both ends of the project with 2-way radios. The contractor [Tackaberry] had Construction signs posted as well as a reduced speed limit of 60km/hr. They were working on the project at this time away from the swamp area installing culverts.

In this situation we wanted the windrow from the one furrowed plough to be toward the edge of pavement so he had to go against traffic. The grader was going the same direction behind the guys installing the barrier and rolling it back against it.

This process is getting to be a norm across the Province. An AMC is doing a two year contract for MTO on Hwy #15 between Seeleys Bay and Crosby and every wet hole has Turtle Barrier for the same reason. There’s has been installed off of the shoulder for complete rehabilitation of the roadway.






Rob Ferguson CRS-I

Contributing Author

Patrol Supervisor

Public Works

United Counties of Leeds & Grenville

25 Central Avenue West, Suite 100

Brockville, ON, K6V 4N6

Cell  613-802-1532


B.C. Sawmill Ordered to Pay $724,000 for Fatal Explosion and Fire

August 5th, 2014

judgementWorkSafeBC has ordered Lakeland Mills Ltd, the owners of the British Columbia sawmill that experienced a terrible explosion and fire on April 23, 2012, to pay upwards of $724,000 in penalties. That incident took the lives of two workers, 43-year-old Alan Little, and 46-year-old Glen Roche, and injured 22 others. That explosion and fire came just a couple months after another fatal explosion and fire at a Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, B.C.  Babine was fined about for their role in that one.

One reason for such a high fine, which included a $97,500 administrative penalty and a $626,663 claims-cost levy may have been because the British Columbia Criminal Justice Branch said earlier this year that it would not be laying charges against the company because too much of the evidence collected would have be inadmissible in court because of the shoddy way the investigation had been handled by WorkSafeBC investigators. That has led the agency to overhaul its investigative methods.

According to WorkSafeBC, Lakeland Mills violated the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and they ordered he company to pay for such violations. In a statement, they acknowledged that, no matter the size of the penalties and fees, it would not make up for the pain and suffering of the families of those who were killed or injured.

Lakeland Mills executives responded to the announcement of the fines by suggesting that the company hadn’t yet looked at all of the information, and they would respond at a later date. They seemed to suggest that they might fight it. But some worker safety advocates referred to the penalties as a slap on the wrist, and recommended an independent inquiry, so that the families might find closure.

OSHA Maximizes Enforcement in Construction, Oil and Gas In North Dakota

August 1st, 2014

construction conesThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration. (OSHA) has launched a focused enforcement initiative in North Dakota, because 34 workers in the oil and gas and construction sectors have died as a result of work-related injuries just since January 2012. Those deaths accounted for 87 percent of all workplace fatalities investigated by the agency in the state, which is disturbing.

The enforcement emphasis program will temporarily include additional investigators from other areas of the United States to increase OSHA’s presence in the state. According to OSHA, just because the construction and oil and gas industries are inherently dangerous, and industry demand keeps increasing is not a valid reason why worker safety should be compromised. The agency notes that workers who come into the state for work are looking for a job and income, not catastrophic injury or preventable death.

In all, since 2012, 21 of the 34 worker fatalities happened as they were operating or servicing drilling rigs or as they were providing support operations in the oil and gas industry. The 13 construction workers who died during that period have succumbed to falls, which are still the leading cause of death in the construction industry, as well as struck-by hazards and trench cave-ins.

For three years, OSHA has had a local emphasis program for the oil and gas industry, precisely because of its inherent dangers. This program includes increased chemical sampling and atmospheric testing of fracking and drilling operations. The agency has also participated in outreach events with oil and gas companies, and industry groups. These included a recent stand-down in Montana and North Dakota, in which more than 160 employers and 1,000 workers voluntarily shut down operations for a day to discuss hazards and how to safely address them.

Alberta Injury Rates at Record Low; Not Good Enough

July 31st, 2014

Handicapped driverWith the rate of worker on-the-job injuries down for 2013, the latest statistics from Alberta’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) look very rosy indeed. They continue what has become a 20-year trend of improved workplace safety. Things are looking so good, the lost-time claim rate (LTC) for 2013 was the lowest ever recorded, at 1.34 per 100 person-years. That number is down from 1.40 in 2012. In addition, the disabling injury rate (DIR), which measures how many workers were either unable to work or forced to modify their work duties due to injury, dropped in the manufacturing, oil and gas and construction sectors last year. In those sectors, the rate for 2013 was 2.67 per 100 person-years, down from 2.72 in 2012.

But while things are looking up, no one is satisfied, nor should they be. The overall trend is hopeful, to be sure, but, despite improvements in safety, 2013 featured 188 workplace fatalities. And while the injury rate decreased, the number of disabling injury claims actually increased slightly, because there was a 2.9% increase in the provincial workforce, to 2.1 million in 2013. There were 54,140 disabling injury claims in 2013, which was a two per cent increase from 2012, when 53,081 claims were filed. Disabled injury claims are figured by combining lost-time claims and modified work claims.

In a statement, the Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, Kyle Fawcett wrote: “I’m pleased to see a steady improvement in workplace safety. The hard work of industry, employers, workers, safety associations and government is paying off. That said, there are still far too many workplace deaths. I want all Alberta workers to get home safely at the end of the day.”

Working in Canadian Heat Brings Danger

July 30th, 2014

SunWhile many Canadians enjoy the summer heat because it gives them a chance to be more active outdoors, most can just run inside when it’s time to cool off. But those who have to work in the heat should be taking precautions when doing so, to avoid the health risks associated with heat exertion.

The first thing you should do is to give your body the time it needs to adapt to toiling in the hot summer weather. Acclimatizing to the heat will take at least 4 to 7 working days, and you should start working fewer hours outdoors at first, then slowly increase the time you work outdoors over the next week or two, so that you’re certain you can work safely, and you don’t stress out your body by overexerting it. That means each worker should be aware of the early signs of heat stress in yourself and your co-workers, so it can be treated right away, before it turns into something very serious. Among the signs to watch out for include:

  • Headache, dizziness and fatigue;
  • Heavy sweating;
  • Dehydration;
  • Muscle cramps;
  • Changes to breathing and pulse rate.

If a worker isn’t careful, heat stress can become heat stroke relatively quickly. Heat stroke is when the body’s temperature elevates to a level that is potentially life-threatening. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention.

While workers have a responsibility when working in the heat, employers also have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of workers, and to assess and control all possible hazards workers may be exposed to at the work site, and that includes extremely hot and cold weather. Employers are encouraged to protect workers by reducing physical activity to the extent possible, scheduling physically demanding jobs for the cooler parts of the day, giving workers time to acclimate to the hotter weather, creating shaded cooling stations, where workers can rest, and by providing plenty of cool drinking water.

Two Oregon Highway Workers Killed in 2 Days; Prompts Extra Measures

July 29th, 2014

Traffic ControlThe Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division has embarked on an investigation into the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) after two separate incidents within two days this past week, in which highway construction workers were killed on the job in northeast Oregon.

According to Oregon State Police (OSP), a 64-year-old worker, Glen McCoy of Sparks, Nevada, an employee of a construction company, was working at installing rumble strips at a paving project on Interstate 84 near Boardman on July 23, when he was run over by a pickup truck that was towing a piece of equipment. The pickup was owned by the same construction company and was being driven by a co-worker. McCoy was pronounced dead later that evening.

That tragedy came a day after an ODOT worked was killed at a work site on state Highway 320 near Echo.

According to OSP, in that incident 54-year-old Donald Kendall was part of an ODOT maintenance crew that was paving Highway 320 on July 22, when an ODOT dump truck slowly backed up and ran over him.

Oregon OSHA is on the scene, and looking at all aspects of these incidents. They are looking closely at how well everyone was supervised and trained, and how well hazards were assessed on the job sites. They will also look closely at the safety protocols that were in place at the time. ODOT has also conducted safety stand-downs since the incidents, to make sure workers are aware of the dangers of their business they’re in. In a statement, ODOT said they hold weekly safety meetings, but they plan to ramp things up even more after this week’s events.

Safety Manager Fired for Protecting Workers

July 28th, 2014

Hardhat Safety manualA Toronto-based construction safety specialist is claiming that he was dismissed from the Nalcor Energy hydroelectric megaproject in Muskrat Falls, Labrador, after he chose to shut down the project temporarily during a lightning storm, and send all of the workers to safety.

The safety manager, Douglas Lyons, who has 24 years’ experience in construction safety, was working for the project on a contract basis. The project includes the construction of a dam over the Churchill River. He ordered the shutdown on the afternoon of July 2, when one of his safety coordinators spotted lightning in the northern sky. The project’s lightning detection system then went off, so he immediately enacted the industry-standard “40-30 lightning action protocol.” With that protocol, all construction workers take cover from the storm until it passes.

Lyons has said that a construction manager for Astaldi Canada, the company running the worksite, phoned him ten minutes after the protocol, and scolded him for stopping work, scolded him again in person shortly after that. At the end of the work day, the manager fired Lyons and put him on a plane home.

Astaldi Canada, which is the Canadian branch of a major Italian construction company, released a press statement on July 14 in which it suggested that the manager did the wrong thing, and that Lyons had acted appropriately. “It causes us great concern when our safety culture is brought into question. Whenever an employee takes appropriate action related to the safety and security of our workplace, we support those actions unequivocally.”

In other reports on the incident, Lyons has suggested that the problems between him and Astaldi may have been due to cultural differences, suggesting there are not only language differences between them, but also a lack of comprehension as to Canadian culture and the Canadian safety expectation. Either way, keeping workers safe from lightning should not be a firing offence.