OSHA Cites 3 Companies for New Jersey Plant Chemical Hazards

December 19th, 2014

Chemical plantIn New Jersey, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a total of 28 citations against French nail polish manufacturer Fiabila USA Inc. as well as two staffing agencies, in the wake of an investigation that uncovered explosion and chemical hazards at a plant in Mine Hill. In all, the citations could result in $139,500 in total penalties.

After receiving a complaint, OSHA conducted an inspection in May 2014. During the inspection, they found flammable liquids stored in indoor tanks, and they found that workers at the plant were routinely exposed to fire, explosion and safety and health hazards related to flammable chemicals. In July, one of the tanks overflowed, due to a safety mechanism that was disabled or broken.

Most of the citations proposed by OSHA were against Fiabila for exposing workers to hazards. In all, they face 23 citations that could cost them $109,500. JobConnection was cited for three violations for failure to properly train temporary workers, and they face $18,000 in fines, while Joulé faces $12,000 in penalties for two violations for the same failure.

In announcing the citations, OSHA made special note of the status of the workers, saying, “Whether temporary or permanent, workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace. Staffing agencies and host employers are joint employers of temporary workers. Both are responsible for providing and maintaining safe working conditions free of potentially fatal hazards.”

Each of the companies has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to either accept them, contest them or request a meeting with an OSHA area director.

Fatal Ontario 3-Vehicle Crash Involves Snowplow

December 18th, 2014

snowplow4According to Ontario Provincial Police, one man is dead and two others were injured after a terrible crash in the Town of Georgina involving three vehicles, including a snowplow.

The accident occurred on the afternoon of December 8, when an SUV travelling south on Highway 48 crossed over the line and into the northbound lane. That caused him to clip the blade of a snowplow, which caused him to veer off and hit an oncoming minivan head on.

All three drivers in the crash were injured, and both the SUV driver and snowplow driver were taken to hospital. However the driver of the minivan, who was described by police as a 46-year-old man from nearby Keswick, was fatally injured. Apparently, an air ambulance had been dispatched to the scene, but was subsequently cancelled when he was declared dead at the scene.

After the accident, Highway 48 was closed for hours north of Ravenshoe Road. It was finally reopened shortly after 9 p.m.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, there are approximately 33 accidents every year involving snowplows, which are on the roads trying to make the drive safer. Among the most common reasons for these accidents include attempting to pass the plow, or driving too aggressively for current road conditions. In this case, a number of factors may have been present, including possible distraction on the part of the SUV’s driver, or even drowsy driving.

This tragic accident should serve as a reminder that all drivers should be alert and aware at all times, and make room for the snowplow.


OSHA Plans New Silica Exposure Limits for Fracking Workers

December 17th, 2014

FrackingThe oil and gas production boom in the United States, which has been led by the increased use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has also created another boom, in the use of silica sand. And as the use of silica sand in fracking grows, so does public concern over the negative health effects associated with its use.

For example, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued an alert in 2012 identifying exposure to airborne silica sand and dust as a significant workplace health hazard for fracking workers. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found that workers exposed to high levels of respirable silica sand during fracking are at risk for developing silicosis, which can lead to a number of illnesses tied to the respiratory system, up to and including lung cancer.

That is why OSHA announced a proposed rule in Aug. 2013 that called for new standards designed to protect workers. It calls for a permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 micrograms of respirable silica per cubic meter of air during an 8-hr workday. It also provides for many other protections, including measurement of silica exposure by workers, limiting access to areas with high silica levels, and calls for implementation of exposure reduction methods. The new OSHA rule will also require employers to provide workers in high exposure situations with regular medical exams, and more specialized worker training on how to limit exposure to silica-related hazards.

OSHA is also touting the financial benefits of the new rule. An OSHA fact sheet, entitled “OSHA’S Proposed Crystalline Silica Rule: Overview,” notes that implementation of the rule will cost the average workplace about $1,242 per year, but that the rule will provide an average annual net economic benefit of between $2.8 and $4.7 billion per year to the economy.

New Ontario Standards for Working at Heights

December 16th, 2014

Working at Heights Training Program The Ontario government plans to raise the bar and improve the safety of construction workers through its creation of a new Working at Heights Training Program Standard. Training based on this standard will apply to every construction project in the province that is regulated by the Regulations for Construction Projects, and it will become mandatory as of April 1, 2015.

This new training standard will attempt to ensure that every worker in Ontario using fall protection systems is better and more consistently trained and better protected on the job. The training will cover a number of issues, including the proper usage of personal protective equipment, hazard identification and ladder safety.

To make sure this new standard is implemented in a proper manner, the Ontario Ministry of Labour has also developed a Working at Heights Training Provider Standard. This standard sets up basic requirements for training providers, to make sure they are more qualified and better able to do their jobs. The Ministry has posted an application form and guidelines for training providers, and they will be accepting those applications beginning January 5, 2015.

Workers who have been properly trained under the current fall protection standard before April 1, 2015 will have until April 1, 2017 to also be trained under the new requirements.

The Ministry of Labour has good reasons for developing a standard and improving training. In 2013, 21 workers died in incidents on construction projects, with approximately half of those dying from falls.

Report: New WorkSafeBC Investigation Methods Working

December 15th, 2014

WorksafebcAccording to a new report, a relatively new investigation model used by WorkSafeBC to look into workplace accidents that result in injured or dead workers will from here on be more likely to result in criminal charges against a company. The new system of investigation has been in place since September.

The report recommended an overhaul of inspection and investigation methods at WorkSafeBC, and was triggered by two explosions at British Columbia sawmills within a few months in 2012,Between them, the two explosions left four workers dead and 40 others injured. B.C.’s Justice Ministry blamed flawed WorkSafeBC investigation techniques in both cases for the decisions by the Criminal Justice Branch not to lay charges.

The report discussed the progress on the new investigation protocols so far, and the outlook was positive. They said, if a prosecution is needed, the agency now has the ability to make sure it’s successful.

The new investigative model allows investigators to conduct twin investigations, for both cause and prosecutions. This is done by bringing in a prosecution team early in the investigation, to make sure all evidence is protected and admissible to the courts. WorkSafeBC hopes to appoint a number of special constables to further assist with the investigation process.

The report cited several key areas where progress was noticeable since July, including the implementation of a sustained dust safety compliance plan and policies for the wood manufacturing sector, as well as the development of a health and safety association for that sector. They also noted the finalization of two Memoranda of Understanding between WorkSafeBC and police agencies to more greatly cooperate and share information at those times when they are conducting investigations at the same time on the same incident.

Between Oct. 6 and Nov. 25, two of the 118 mills monitored for dust were issued orders by WorkSafeBC to properly manage their combustible dust. One stop-work order was issued. The report cited that as “a dramatic improvement from where things stood six months ago.”

Pennsylvania Road Worker Run Over by SUV

December 12th, 2014

Road Construction ConesA Pennsylvania road construction worker was killed late Wednesday night, December 3, near the town of North Coventry, when he was struck by an SUV traveling westbound in a new construction zone for a new bridge over the Schuylkill River.

Construction on the new bridge had just begun the day before. Lee A. Boyer, 60, who was also the project superintendent, was assisting workers with with setting cones for a lane closure and line painting at the time he was struck by a Jeep Liberty that was being driven by 57-year-old Newstell Marable.

Three police departments were on scene, including North Coventry police, West Pottsgrove Police and Upper Pottsgrove Police, and all were assisted by Goodwill Ambulance, as well as crews from four area fire departments. Boyer was pronounced dead on the scene.

In addition to the various police investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is also on the scene to investigate. It is the first fatality of the year reported to OSHA in the region, which includes Philadelphia, Chester County, and Delaware County. They plan to look at road conditions, the construction operation, and whether traffic control devices were in use.

Boyer was an employee of J.D. Eckman Inc., a bridge and highway construction company that has been the subject of 31 partial or complete OSHA inspections since 2009. OSHA claims that number isn’t unusual, however, 13 of those inspections resulted in a total of 24 violations during that period of time.

Company Faces Charges for Fall by 14 Year Old Roofer

December 11th, 2014

Roof WorkersIn Alberta, a roofing contractor faces numerous occupational health and safety charges in the wake of an incident this past July in which a worker fell nearly four metres from the roof of a house. What makes this case unusual is that the worker who fell was only 14 years old.

Airdrie, Alberta-based Vital Contracting Ltd. is scheduled to make their first appearance in court in Red Deer on Dec. 19, where they will answer to one count of inappropriately employing a person younger than 15 years old, and others, for their failure to train a worker in fall protection and their failure to develop a comprehensive fall protection plan. They have also been accused of failing to ensure the safety of a worker, failure to competently supervise the worker, and a failure to keep employment records.

The incident that led to the charges happened at a residence in Lacombe, which is located between Edmonton and Red Deer. Thankfully, the injured worker survived the fall, although he was hospitalized briefly.

According to Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, this incident is particularly troubling, because it involved a young worker and fall protection, two areas that involve tremendous risk to workers, and which concern the agency the most. As a result, in addition to charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, they have taken the relatively rare step of also charging them under the province’s Employment Standards Code, based on the fact that they employed someone under 15 inappropriately. This is the first time since 2009 that they’ve lain charges under both Acts against a single employer

For violating the Employment Standards Code, Vital Contracting could face a fine of up to $100,000, while a first offence under the provincial OHS Act could cost them as much as $500,000 and/or six months in prison.


OSHA Final Rule on Reporting Takes Effect January 1

December 10th, 2014

OSHAThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that its final rule on recordkeeping and reporting requirements, which was initially issued Sept.11, 2014, will officially take effect Jan. 1, 2015, so all workplaces should be ready for the change.

Under the new requirements, employers will be required to report amputations of limbs, the loss of an eye or the hospitalizations of one or more employees, regardless of their current status. All of these incidents must be reported within 24 hours. This changes the current rules, which only required that amputations, loss of an eye or employee hospitalizations if three or more employees were hospitalized as a result of a single incident. In addition, the number of exemptions for such reporting have been greatly reduced, so many industries may be caught off guard if they’re not aware.

In addition to those rules, many previously exempted industries will also now be required to maintain OSHA 300 Logs, as part of the agency’s shift from the Standard Industrial Classification System to the North American Industry Classification System. These systems are used by the agencies to evaluate and determine the relative hazards posed by certain industries.

 In addition to more widespread reporting requirements, another change in the rules is that all new reports will be posted on the OSHA website. The agency has been posting fatality reports for some time, but now, they’ll be reporting everything.

For more specific information about these changes, visit OSHA’s website.

Scaffolding Company Fined for Christmas Eve Disaster

December 9th, 2014

Scaffolding SafetyOttawa-based Swing N Scaff Inc., the supplier of a swing stage that was at the center of the deadly Christmas Eve scaffolding collapse in Toronto in 2009, has pleaded guilty to an Occupational Health and Safety Act violation for failing to ensure the platform was in good condition. As a result, they were fined $350,000.

In addition to that penalty, a company director, Patrick Deschamps, also pleaded guilty to the same charge, as well as one for failing to make sure the scaffolding was designed by a professional engineer. He was personally fined $50,000.

Back on December 24, 2009, six migrant workers from Eastern Europe, all of whom were employees of Toronto-based Metron Construction Corporation, were in the process of restoring the balconies on an apartment building in Toronto. All six we’re working from a swing stage that was built for two people when the scaffold collapsed, sending four of the workers plummeting 13 storeys to their deaths.

In a previous proceeding in 2012, Metron Construction Corp., pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. The company was fined $750,000 as a result. That case marked the first time Ontario’s Criminal Code was used to hold a company responsible for a worker’s death. Subsequently, a director of Metron was also fined $90,000 four OHS Act convictions.

The fine against Swing N Scaff Inc. was imposed by Judge Mara B. Greene, and a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge was added to every one of the fines against those responsible.

Rash of Alberta Workplace Deaths Continues

December 8th, 2014

BobcatThe rash of workplace fatalities in Alberta continues, as Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) investigates the fifth worker death in less than two weeks. It was also the eighth fatality since November 1.

According to RCMP, a worker was killed at about 8:50 a.m. on the morning of Friday, December 5, at an oil sands mine run by Canadian Natural Resources Limited near Fort McMurray. The fatality occurred as a result of a preventible accident involving heavy mining equipment.  Apparently, the 45-year-old worker was operating a bobcat as he attempted to repair a leaking hydraulic line. At the time, the bobcat’s bucket was suspended in the air and was unsupported. Eventually, the bucket suddenly fell, hitting the worker in the head and trapping him.

Mining operations have been suspended until OHS completes their investigation.

OHS notes that the province had been looking at fatalities possible being down this year, until this recent rash of workplace deaths. So far in 2014, there have been 52 workplace deaths, which matches the number for 2013. It also means there were 44 until November 1. There were 51 in 2012. While the overall annual figure is not spiking, it is still steadily high. The Ministry has promised to put more money into prevention and conduct more inspections. The province has continued to advance their program to turn inspectors into peace officers, who will be able to issue tickets for violations.