Missouri Manufacturer Cited by OSHA for Toxic, Noise Hazards

July 30th, 2015

Hexavalent ChromiumA Pennsylvania-based storage tank manufacturer, Abec, Inc., is now facing citations and a total of $74,000 in fines because workers at its plant in Springfield, Missouri were exposed to potentially deafening noise levels, as well as hazardous levels of hexavalent chromium, based on a recent inspection, which was triggered by a complaint about the plant.

Inspectors with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors have issued citations for a total 12 serious safety violations based on what their inspectors uncovered. They found one worker who had been exposed to hexavalent chromium at levels exceeding permissible exposure limits as he was welding and grinding steel that contained chromium metal, which is added to steel to harden it and to resist corrosion.

The OSHA inspectors also cited the company for its failure to implement engineering controls that would serve to monitor and reduce worker exposure levels, as well as for its failure to conduct additional monitoring after the company expanded its production processes in 2006, 2008 and 2014.

This is important, because exposure to hexavalent chromium, especially at high levels, can cause respiratory, eye and skin damage and can eventually lead to lung cancer. Overall, according to OSHA, more than 50,000 workers annually die from exposure to hazardous substances like chromium during their working careers.

In addition to the chemical exposure, the OSHA inspection also discovered three workers who were being exposed to noise levels that were well above acceptable decibel levels for an eight-hour shift, and they also identified and cited the company for violations of respiratory protection standards and for improperly adjusted rests on a grinder, which exposed workers to machinery part hazards.

Abec, which employs about 215 workers at the Missouri plant, has tripled its workforce in recent years. OSHA noted in its report that the rate expansion is not an excuse, and that employers should be continually reviewing their safety processes and procedures and to make sure their facilities are being properly monitored for hazards of all types.

Charges Laid Against Provincial Highway Department

July 29th, 2015

Hardhat Safety manualAccording to a news release from last week, Service NL reports that  that the Newfoundland and Labrador Transportation and Works Department is now facing eight counts under the Occupational Health and Safety Act because of a tragic accident two years ago that resulted in the death of a worker on a paint crew.

The incident that led to the charges happened on July 23, 2013, as 41-year-old worker Wayne Wall was setting up road-painting signs on the Trans-Canada Highway, in an area about six kilometres west of Flat Bay Hill. The Transportation and Works crew was making preparations to paint a “YIELD” sign on the pavement of the eastbound driving lane near the Flat Bay turnoff.

As Wall was setting up the signs to mark the work area, he was hit by a passing pickup truck, just before it smashed into a department work truck, sending another government worker to hospital, in addition to two people who were in the pickup.

Among the violations the Department has been charged with included failing to provide a safe workplace; failing to provide adequate instruction and supervision; failing to provide effective traffic control; and failing to implement an adequate occupational health and safety program.

The Department will make its first appearance at a provincial court in Stephenville on Sept. 21.

OSHA Cites Contractor Almost $424k in Trench Collapse

July 28th, 2015

Trench WorkerThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA has cited Houston, Texas-based contractor Hassell Construction for a total of 16 safety violations, including six willful violations that the agency referred to as “egregious” for its failure to protect workers who were working  inside a trench from a cave-in in the wake of a cave-in that caused injury to a worker. In all, the company faces potential fines totaling $423,900.

On the day of the collapse, the worker was working below ground in the 8-foot trench when it suddenly collapsed around him and he was buried. Co-workers were able to come to his aid and dig him out with their bare hands, but moments after he had been pulled to safety, the trench collapsed again. The worker suffered serious injuries and was transported to a Houston-area hospital.  

In its report on their investigation, OSHA made some rather pointed statements about the company’s tendency to ignore the dangers of trenching, with one OSHA official noting, “For more than 2,500 years, man has known how to prevent deadly trench collapses. It is absolutely unacceptable that employers continue to endanger the lives of workers in trenches.”

The company was also cited for nine serious violations, including one for their failure to provide a safe means for workers to get in and out of the trench and one for their failure to remove debris from the edge of the excavation, to prevent objects from falling in and striking workers. In addition, OSHA cited them for failing to conduct atmospheric testing inside the trench in the wake of a sewer leak.

In addition to the massive fine, OSHA has placed the company into its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which is an attempt on the part of the agency to focus more inspections on those employers who demonstrate indifference toward creating a truly safe and healthy workplace and by mandating follow-up compliance inspections

Alberta Injury Rates Hit Record Lows

July 27th, 2015

StatsAccording to statistics released last week by provincial safety officials in Alberta, an emphasis on workplace safety does pay dividends, as the data show a 20-year trend of improved workplace safety, culminating in several workplace injury rates that are the lowest ever recorded in the province.

According to data provided by the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), in 2013 the rate of workers in Alberta being hurt on the job dropped in 2013, to the point that the lost-time claim (LTC) rate reached the lowest rate ever recorded, at 1.34 per 100 person-years, down from a 1.40 rate in 2012.

Also encouraging is the fact that some key provincial industries, including the construction, oil and gas and manufacturing sectors, saw a significant drop in the disabling injury rate (DIR), to 2.67 per 100 person-years in 2013. The DIR utilizes information on workers who were unable to work or had to have their duties modified because of a workplace injury.

All of this good news does not mean the job is over, however; not by a long shot. While the rates went down, it was largely due to the fact that the size of the Alberta workforce continues to increase. In 2013, it was up 2.9 per cent over 2012, totaling 2.1 million workers. The raw number showed an increase, with 54,140 disabling injury claims, which was a two per cent increase over the 53,081 claims recorded in 2012. Tragically, 188 workplace fatalities were recorded in 2013 alone. No one in Alberta will be satisfied until those numbers reach zero.

OSHA Fines Ohio Contractor for Overpass Collapse

July 24th, 2015

judgement The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued citations and assessed fines against Ohio-based Kokosing Construction Company, the contractor that was responsible for demolishing an overpass in Cincinnati, because the overpass collapsed back in January, fatally injuring a worker.

The collapse occurred on January 19, 2015, when workers took a Komatsu PC 400 LC tracked excavator onto the overpass at a time when the working surface did not have the strength to provide proper support for it. As a result, the overpass collapsed onto the southbound lanes of Interstate 75, stopping traffic for nearly 24 hours. At the time, one worker, 35-year-old Brandon Carl, was on the overpass, and his body was later found pinned under a pile of rubble.

After a thorough investigation, OSHA cited the company for its failing to adequately inspect the structural integrity of the overpass as the work crews dismantled it, and that is what led to workers placing heavy equipment on the overpass well past the time when it was strong enough support the weight.

The agency also proposed $14,000 in fines against Kokosing and was able to get the company to agree to an informal settlement agreement in which they acknowledged the violations and agreed to pay the fine by Aug. 31, and they agreed to use a third-party engineering firm to conduct engineering surveys and inspections to at least the next five years, in order to enhance the relative safety of their demolition plans.

Gravel Pit Incident Leads to WorkSafeNB Stop-Work Order

July 23rd, 2015

gravel pitLast week, WorkSafeNB issued a stop-work order to a company in northwestern New Brunswick after a tragic accident in which a worker at a worksite in Drummond, which is close to Grand Falls, was killed after a 10-metre fall into a gravel pit. The worker didn’t fall into the pit, his truck fell into it.

According to agency officials, the worker was operating a tar truck when, for some currently-unknown reason, the truck slipped off the slope of the gravel pit and fell into it, crushing the driver. The purpose of the stop-work order is to ensure that the worksite remains intact until a survey to measure the slopes of the gravel pit is conducted. They also intend to conduct tests to determine whether or not the soil-bearing capabilities of the gravel pit were sufficient to keep the driver safe.

WorkSafeNB staff is conducting a thorough investigation of every aspect of the accident, which means they will conduct interviews with the employer, workers and other potential witnesses, and conduct a thorough examination of machinery, equipment, personal protective equipment, procedures and training. The investigation will determine how the fatality happened, how or whether it could have been prevented and whether there were any violations of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act.

OSHA Hits Texas Company With 14 Violations, $188,760 Fine

July 22nd, 2015

OSHA-logoOfficials with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have decided that a steel fabricator based in Dallas, Texas, Steel Fabrication Services Inc., has continued to put its workers at excessive risk, despite having been made aware of the hazards at its facility in Farmers Branch during an earlier inspection and promising to fix the problems. After the latest inspection at the facility, they cited the company for a total of 14 safety violations and they have proposed penalties amounting to $188,760.

OSHA inspectors cited the company for two willful, six repeated and six serious violations for the results of the latest inspection in January 2015, which was actually a follow-up inspection to one the agency conducted in February 2014, when they identified five serious violations involving the lack of protective machine guarding, electrical hazards and unsafe storage of compressed gas cylinders.

During the follow-up, they found that the company was continuing to expose workers to mostly the same hazards, including unguarded machinery, improperly stored oxygen cylinders and a number of other safety and health hazards. In addition to the hazards that were still present, the company also failed to document to OSHA that the problems cited earlier had been addressed, as required by law.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Ontario Trenching Hazards Blitz

July 21st, 2015

TrenchThe Ontario Ministry of Labour is in the midst of a two-month worksite enforcement blitz that is focused primarily on the hazards that are present when workers construct trenches for a number of reasons, including installation or repair of utilities or sewers.

From now through the end of August 2015, Ministry inspectors will visit a number of  construction sites throughout Ontario where trenches are being excavated as part of the project, and they will check for hazards that result in worker injuries or fatalities. By definition, an excavation is a hole in the ground that is made by removing dirt and other material, while a trench is an excavation that is deeper than it is wide.

Inspectors will examine the sites closely to make sure workers have been properly trained and supplied with the proper safety equipment, and to make sure employers are properly assessing and addressing any hazards found and are complying with Ontario’s occupational health and safety laws, especially the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act.

More specifically, inspectors will be paying special attention to making sure the contractor has made a trench work notification to the Ministry of Labour; that they have identified, located and marked of underground utilities before the work starts, that they have supported the wall of the trench and that appropriate measures to prevent slips, trips and falls either in or into the trench have been taken.

This increased enforcement is part the Ministry’s “Safe At Work Ontario initiative,” which the province launched in June 2008. Since then, inspectors have conducted nearly 350,000 inspections and issued more than 560,000 compliance orders. The reason for this particular blitz, the 72nd since 2008, may be that, between 2008 and 2014 excavation incidents cause 17 fatalities and 42 critical injuries.


WorkSafeBC Enforcement Focus on Asbestos in Residential Projects

July 20th, 2015

demolitionBeginning this month, prevention officers with WorkSafeBC will be conducting increased inspections of residential demolition and renovation throughout British Columbia, with the idea of paying special attention to making absolutely sure all contractors are following all health and safety laws regarding the identification and removal of asbestos from all projects.

This is a serious problem in British Columbia, as hundreds of homes are either demolished or renovated every month. Many of those homes were built before the 1980s, when asbestos was commonly used in a number of ways in most homes, including insulation, drywall, linoleum, floor tiles and even spray-on fireproofing. While asbestos is not considered a health risk when left in place undisturbed, the airborne exposures that happen during a demolition or renovation can lead to serious and eventually fatal lung diseases with symptoms that often don’t develop until many years later.

It’s a problem that plagues workers every year, primarily because it wasn’t taken seriously throughout a large portion of the 20th Century. From 2005 through 2014, 581 B.C. workers died from diseases that were related to asbestos exposures, and most of those occurred because of exposures that occurred many years before. About 77 of those deaths occurred last year alone. These days, the only possible exposure is through not following safe practices, which is why WorkSafeBC is conducting this focused examination.

In 2014, WorkSafeBC officers conducted 210 site inspections, through which they found that more than 40 percent of the hazardous material surveys conducted by contractors were inadequate, and they wrote 257 orders for hazardous materials violations and slapped contractors with 20 penalties.

Ironworker Falls at Boston Airport Construction Site

July 17th, 2015

Fall ArrestAt a construction site for a new parking facility at Boston’s Logan Airport last week a 53-year-old ironworker was critically injured in a horrible accident last Friday morning, when he fell about 40 feet to the ground below after he was attempting to secure a 32-ton concrete panel in place and it fell from the crane that was hoisting it to the third floor of the garage.

According to Massachusetts State Police, the injured worker, who was from Connecticut, suffered injuries described as serious and was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.

Based on a preliminary investigation, indicates the worker, who was employed by Blakeslee Prestress Inc., was standing on the third floor of the under-construction parking facility trying to secure the precast concrete panel when it dropped to the ground and caused the worker to fall, as well. While it has not been confirmed that he wasn’t wearing fall arrest equipment, he fell 40 feet, which means it’s not likely.

All work at the site has been stopped temporarily while the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducts a thorough review. The garage, which is budgeted at approximately $80 million, is being built by Turner Construction Co., and Blakeslee Prestress is a subcontractor.

OSHA’s review and inspection of the site will try to determine if there were any violations of workplace safety at the site that may have contributed to the accident. In addition to OSHA, officials with the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety are also trying to determine if regulations governing the use of hoisting equipment, including cranes, were violated.