OSHA Cites Plant for Safety Violations

July 27th, 2016

OSHAThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited French gas supplier Air Liquide Large Industries US for one willful and one serious safety violation and asked them to pay $77,000 in fines for what they described as “unsafe working conditions” at its facility in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The citations come after OSHA initiated an inspection  of the company’s steam methane reformer plant on Jan. 27. The inspection came about as a result of a complaint about unsafe working conditions.

The willful citation was issued for the company’s failure to conduct air monitoring to assess employee exposure to carbon monoxide gas. The serious citation was issued for its failure to protect workers from a potentially hazardous atmosphere. The problem came from valves that had been inadequately maintained and were found to be leaking.

Air Liquide Large Industries US is a limited partnership and subsidiary of Paris-based Air Liquide, a supplier of gases, technologies and services for industry and health uses. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to fix the problem, request an informal conference with OSHA area director, or contest the fines before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

In response to the citations, the company released the following statement, which hints at the option they plan to take:

“The health, safety and security of our employees, and the communities in which we operate, is the foundation of Air Liquide’s business. We have fully cooperated with OSHA and have provided all information requested of us to date. While Air Liquide is aware of two citations issued by OSHA on July 20, 2016, we strongly disagree with the findings and conclusions contained in the citations. As a result, we expect we will exercise our right to vigorously contest these citations, with the intent to have them vacated . “

Company Fined for Worker CO Exposure

July 26th, 2016

gas maskA property maintenance business, Ground Maintenance Cleaning Contractors Inc. (GMCC Inc.), pleaded guilty earlier this month and were give a fine of $75,000 for violations of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act because they failed to train and protect a work crew from exposure to carbon monoxide gas in a parking garage, which resulted in one worker collapsing and dying from exposure.

The incident occurred  at a condo building in Scarborough on May 28, 2014. GMCC had been hired by the condo company to power wash the underground parking garage. To perform their work, GMCC’s crew of six workers were using four gasoline-powered washers, which emit carbon monoxide (CO) gas. The garage had several internal exhaust fans, but at some point, they stopped working. The condo’s superintendent told the supervisor of the GMCC Inc. crew that an electrician had been called to repair the fans, but in the meantime, the work crew continued, using portable fans.

Soon after, a worker left the garage and collapsed on a sidewalk after which emergency personnel were called and the worker was transported to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead from carbon monoxide toxicity. The other workers were also transported to hospital, where they received treatment for carbon monoxide exposure and released with no lasting health issues reported as a result of the incident.

An investigation was conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, who concluded that neither the work crew nor the supervisor had received any formal training on the hazards of carbon monoxide. Furthermore, it was determined that neither GMCC nor the supervisor took steps to protect workers from carbon monoxide poisoning. Workers had received no formal health and safety training other than Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) and many hadn’t even received that training.

GMCC, Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to limit the exposure of workers to carbon monoxide as prescribed by OHS, and  Justice of the Peace Rhonda Roffey fined them$75,000 and tacked on the 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means they’re out $93,750 and one worker, simply for not training workers to be safe. Proof again that safety training doesn’t cost, it pays.

Company Blames Victims for Accident

July 25th, 2016

WarningIn the wake of a January explosion at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oilsands facility in Alberta, the company is attempting to place at least some of the blame for the fatal accident on the workers – Dave Williams, 30, and Drew Foster, 52 – who were fatally injured in the blast. As one can imagine, the families of the deceased workers are calling that move a “disgrace.”

According to some officials at Nexen, the company’s investigation, which Nexen officials described as “extensive,” found that the explosion had been caused by some workers doing work they weren’t supposed to be doing. In a statement, the company said, “Our investigation indicates that the incident was a result of work being performed outside the scope of approved work activities.”

Beyond that statement, the company, which is a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned CNOOC Ltd., refused to comment any further on the incident, since Alberta Occupational Health and Safety is still conducting their own investigation.

To make matters worse, the damage done by the explosion is expected to result in 350 plant worker layoffs. Nexen determined that there was no short-term fix to the damage, so they idled the upgrader portion of the Long Lake facility indefinitely, which means no workers are needed there.

The brother of one blast victim, Archie Williams, once worked at the same plant from 2008-2014, calls it a “disgrace” that his brother may be remembered as  responsible for the accident. He also noted that, on the day of the explosion, Dave Williams had been assigned to the hydrocracker unit while on an overtime shift, which was not his usual position. He usually worked at the water treatment plant. In addition, Williams noted that he doesn’t believe his brother could have caused the explosion because his body was found at the facility entrance, far away from where the explosion occurred, with no broken bones and  burns only to the front of his body.

Cal/OSHA Issues New Refinery Regulations

July 22nd, 2016

Oil refineryThe State of California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), Cal/OSHA, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) have all come together to announced several new proposed regulations designed to strengthen workplace and environmental safety at all of the state’s oil refineries.

The new regulations were propagated in order to implement several key recommendations of a multi-year effort by the Governor’s Interagency Working Group on Refinery Safety. The input included extensive consultation with workers, industry leaders, NGOs, and communities, and were triggered by a serious chemical release and fire at Chevron’s  oil refinery in Richmond that occurred back in August 2012.

The two complementary regulations seek to strengthen the California Accidental Release Prevention program (CalARP)  at the same time they overhaul the Cal/OSHA regulations regarding refineries, in an effort to incorporate the latest and most advanced principles of safer engineering and management, as well as attention to the human and organizational elements of safety.

Among the most prominent features of the new regulations are:

  • Increased accountability on the part of employers regarding equipment integrity;
  • Increased worker involvement in health and safety programs;
  • Periodic workplace safety culture assessments to evaluate management responsibility and responsiveness;
  • Refinery personnel will have the authority to shut down an unsafe unit;
  • Establishes investigation requirements to determine root causes of any incidents that occur;
  • Establishes criteria for developing interim and permanent corrective measures in response to incidents; and
  • Establishes annual public reporting of refinery safety metrics.

Over the years, tragic incidents at oil and gas refineries have constituted a major risk to refinery workers and communities and they cost Californians about $800 million a year when fuel supplies are disrupted. The agencies responsible for these new proposed regulations will solicit comment for at least 45 days, and several public hearings will be held, as well before the regulations become official and take effect.

Ontario Company Fined For Hand Injury

July 21st, 2016

lockoutA Kitchener, Ontario cracker manufacturer, BFG Canada Ltd., pleaded guilty recently and was fined $110,000 for an incident that occurred on Dec. 5, 2014, in which a worker’s hand was pulled into a machine, causing him to suffer permanent injuries.

The incident occurred at the company’s Kitchener manufacturing facility, which included an incline conveyor system that is used to cool the crackers after baking and move them through the processing line. The conveyor system was driven by a powered roller that was about two metres wide and which rotated counter-clockwise in  order to pull the conveyor belt forward. One centimetre from that powered roller was an additional roller that rotated in the opposite direction to guide the belt, which created a pinch point.

The day of the accident, the powered roller had been slipping and was unable to move the conveyor belt forward, so a worker was instructed by a BFG supervisor to troubleshoot and repair the problem. Without disabling the machine, the worker saw a piece of grip tape that had been sticking out from the edge of the powered roller,  about a foot from the pinch point, and when he tried to grab the grip tape to tear it off the roller, his hand was pulled into the pinch point, injuring him.

Soon after the accident, the worker was able to shut off the machine, but it took emergency personnel almost 40 minutes to free him from the machine completely. Soon after, he was transported to hospital, where he was treated for serious injuries. He now suffers permanent restrictions as a result.

After a thorough investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the company was charged with failing to ensure a guard or other device was in place on the conveyor system to protect a worker from an in-running nip hazard as required by Section 25 of the Industrial Establishments Regulation, which was a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. After pleading guilty, BFG Canada Ltd. was then fined $110,000 by Justice of the Peace Adriana Magoulas, who also imposed the 25 per-cent victim fine surcharge, making the total hit against the company $137,500, simply because it had not trained workers to lock out conveyors before trying to troubleshoot problems.

Supervisors Shouldn’t Risk Safety

July 20th, 2016

gavelAt the beginning of this year, it became clear that circumstances had changed when the Ontario Superior Court decided to send a strong message to managers and supervisors who operate potentially dangerous workplaces like construction sites.  It happened when Vadim Kazenelson, a project manager for a construction crew, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. He was overseeing a crew that was replacing balconies on a high-rise on Christmas Eve 2009 when the swing stage of a scaffold collapsed , sending five workers plummeting to the ground. Four workers died and one was seriously injured. The only worker on the crew who was wearing a lifeline only suffered minor injuries.

At the time of the accident, the project had fallen behind schedule and Kazenelson was trying to pick up the pace in order to meet a year-end deadline.  On December 24, seven workers, including Kazenelson, were returning to the ground at the end of the day on a swing stage that was only made for two and was therefore equipped with only two lifelines. As a result, only one of the seven people on board the swing stage had attached himself to a lifeline.

Despite the fact that Kazenelson had asked the project foreman about the lifeline shortage and was told not to worry about it, the Court, which had already sentenced several company officers to jail time, felt that it had to impose a significant prison sentence “to make it unequivocally clear that persons in positions of authority in potentially dangerous workplaces have a serious obligation to take all reasonable steps to ensure that those who arrive for work in the morning will make it safely back to their homes and families at the end of the day.”

Many supervisors forget that, in addition to the usual civil fines to employers,  the Criminal Code also allows for criminal prosecutions for workplace accidents under section 217.1. The Code imposes a legal duty on everyone with the authority to direct how another person does work to take reasonable precautions to prevent worker injuries and deaths.  This section of the code was passed in 2004, after the Westray Mine disaster (Previously known as Bill-C45). And while there have only been two notable convictions, both of them arising from this same incident, there are signs that things may be changing.

Cases like this should serve as a reminder that employers and supervisors face possible criminal liability if they decide not to take reasonable steps to follow the requirements of occupational health and safety regulations and to take reasonable steps to keep workers safe. If you’re convicted, you could end up looking at a large fine or even significant prison time.

It is interesting that the court made reference to the words potentially dangerous. As those words are not necessarily the key words in this article.

  • Position of Authority
  • All reasonable steps
  • Life line
  • Over capacity
  • Deadline

If you are a supervisor, you need to understand what your Due Diligence is! How can you protect your workers and yourself from danger? A good place to start is through training!

Sign up here and hear and speak to a former Ministry of Labour Inspector.

OSHA: Fatality Was Preventable

July 19th, 2016

OSHAIn the wake of an inspection, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has determined that the tragic death of a worker at Tonawanda Coke in Buffalo, New York in January could easily have been prevented.

The incident that led to the inspection happened on Jan. 6, 2016, when 60-year-old Richard Wade was performing greasing and lubricating maintenance on a coal elevator, when his jacket became caught in the machinery and he was pulled into a rotating shaft.  The injuries he received were ultimately fatal.

The OSHA inspection found that the elevator was never actually shut down and the power to the coal elevator was never locked out. To make matters worse, it was discovered that OSHA had warned Tonawanda Coke of the same problem after previous inspections, but the company had failed to implement proper procedures. As a result, OSHA cited Tonawanda Coke for two repeat and six serious violations of OSHA safety standards and regulations and assessed fines totaling $175,200.

In a statement, OSHA noted that incidents involving workers who either work near unguarded machinery or who perform maintenance on equipment that has not been locked out are far too common and employers should do more to prevent them. They strongly suggested that Tonawanda Coke could have prevented the ‘needless loss’ of the worker’s life.  They pointed out that the solutions to such problems were in the rules and could easily be avoided by training all workers with regard to lockout procedures.

Airline Ordered to Fix Baggage Trucks

July 18th, 2016

seatbeltFollowing the terrible death of a worker this past April, Air Canada has been ordered by Labour Canada to fix hundreds of baggage handling trucks at airports all over the country. They have until Nov. 15 to complete the necessary safety upgrades and comply with the order.

This order comes in the wake of the death of 24-year-old baggage handler Ian Henrey Pervez, who was killed  on the job April 22 at Pearson Airport in Toronto when the enclosed truck he was driving suddenly flipped over, ejecting him out of the truck and onto the tarmac. Though investigators have not yet determined the exact cause of the crash, Labour Canada acted based on information it has gathered so far in the process of its investigation.

Prior to this order, in May investigators ordered Air Canada to install seatbelts on all “ramp and baggage tractors, belt loaders and other motorized material handling equipment,” accorded to a memo released by several news outlets. That order affected nearly 1,000 of the airline’s 2,200 ground vehicles nationwide, none of which had been manufactured with the safety devices. It has also been reported that, about a week after the accident, an internal Air Canada memo revealed that the vehicle that flipped over had supposedly been taken out of commission after it was found to have unspecified “mechanical failures.”

Other than issuing the orders, the agency in the lead on the federal workplace investigation, Employment and Social Development Canada, has not discussed its findings, although many people are hoping to find out more eventually,  Workers at several Canadian airports dedicated this year’s national day of mourning on April 28, which is designated to commemorate those injured or killed on the job, by holding special vigils marking Pervez’s death. Workers at several airports in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and St. John’s also collected approximately $6,000 in donations for Pervez’s grieving family.

Accidents 3 Days Apart Bring OSHA Investigations

July 15th, 2016

hardhatThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened its second investigation in the course of a week at a Kansas wind farm after a second injury accident in that time. Both investigations are ongoing.

In the latest incident at the Ninnescah Wind Farm in Pratt County, on Wednesday night, July 6, a 4-pound bolt fell and struck a worker for Blattner Energy, Gary Newman, on the head, leaving him unconscious. According to the Pratt County Sheriff’s Department, officers found the 26-year-old Newman about 100 feet above the ground inside the tower with a severe head wound. Apparently, the bolt, which was about 10 inches long, fell from more than 100 feet above the worker when it struck him.

Some of Newman’s co-workers were able to lower him to the ground, where he eventually regained consciousness. According to witnesses, he was not wearing a helmet. Newman was transported to Kingman Hospital, where he was airlifted by a medical helicopter to a Wichita-area hospital.

That accident occurred just three days after a July 3 incident in which a worker fell more than 100 feet at the same facility.  In that case, two workers for Wind Composite Services Group LLC had been working from a suspended work platform when the platform dropped more than 120 feet, landing in a muddy field. One 41-year-old male worker landed on his back while another worker, who was wearing fall safety equipment and was suspended by a lifeline, was able to lower himself down to the platform, after which he was lowered to the ground safely. The worker who was injured, whose name has not been released, remains in critical condition at Via Christi Hospital in St. Francis.

In the wake of the second accident, OSHA released a statement saying, “Wind Energy workers are exposed to many hazards that can result in fatalities and serious injuries such as falls, struck by, electrical shocks and crushing injuries. While wind energy is a growing industry, the hazards are not unique and OSHA has many standards that cover these working conditions.” The statement advised wind energy employers to re-evaluate their safety and health programs to better protect workers.

Not Signaling Truck Brings $100,000 Fine

July 14th, 2016

transporttruckLast week, Mississaugua-based Dream Party Décor, which sets up decorations and amenities for celebrations at rental halls, pleaded guilty to occupational health and safety violations and fined $100,000 for an incident in which a temporary worker was struck by a truck while working on a loading dock.

The incident occurred on March 22, 2014, when the temporary worker was working with a team of other workers in the process of preparing to unload a truck at the loading dock, which was located at the main company facility at 1415 Bonhill Road in Mississaugua. According to the report from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the driver of the truck did not have a clear and unobstructed view of the area behind the truck as he backed toward the loading dock, but there was no signal person present to guide the driver into place. When the truck was put into reverse, it struck the worker and pinned him between the truck and the edge of the loading dock. The impact caused the worker to suffer fatal injuries.

After a thorough investigation by the Ministry of Labour, Dream Party Decor was charged with failure to comply with section 56 of the Industrial Establishments Regulation, which requires the presence of a signal person when the vehicle operator does not have a clear view of the vehicle’s path while reversing.

After the company pleaded guilty to the charge, Justice of the Peace V. Albert Chang Alloy  assessed the $100,000 fine, as well as a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means failing to signal a truck driver to a safe place cost this company $125,000 total. Another example showing that worker safety doesn’t cost companies, it pays.