OSHA Investigating Arkansas Worker Fall From Bridge

April 4th, 2014

Emergency truckThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating a construction accident that occurred on March 27 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when a worker fell.

The accident happened when a worker for St. Louis-based highway construction company Pace Construction Co. was on a scaffold cutting rebar from concrete barriers as part of a project to widen a highway bridge. Suddenly, the scaffolding he was on collapsed, sending him on a 30-foot fall from the bridge to the ground below.

Emergency crews responded at the scene at 2:22 p.m. The worker was transported to Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville with serious injuries, although it is currently unknown whether the man’s injuries are life-threatening. The Fayetteville Fire Department, however, has suggested that he may have suffered internal bleeding and several fractures.

Two More Telecom Tower Workers Die in Kansas

April 3rd, 2014

Fall Arrest HarnessThe U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is conducting an investigation into the collapse of a communications tower in Kansas that resulted in the deaths of two workers from Missouri; Seth Garner and Martin Powers.

Both men worked for St. Louis-based Wireless Horizon, which was a subcontractor for the Union Pacific Railroad. They were working at a height of about 250 feet above ground to remove equipment from a cell phone tower that was being dismantled, when the tower collapsed. When the old tower collapsed, it also took down a new tower that was adjacent to it.

Emergency crews arrived soon after. They pronounced Powers dead at the scene, while Garner was transported to a local hospital, where he died soon after. According to local police, the workers were wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, such as fall protection harnesses, at the time of the accident. OSHA is investigating the accident.

The agency is becoming increasingly worried by the number of fatalities among telecom tower workers lately. Just last year, there were 13 tower-related fatalities, and there were four already this year, even before this accident.

To attempt to stem the tide, the agency is working with a number of telecom stakeholders, including the National Association of Tower Erectors, to ensure that every communication tower employer understands that they have a responsibility to protect all workers who perform this high-risk work. They sent a letter to tower industry employers advising them of the fatality statistics, and reminded them that “Every single one of these tragedies was preventable. OSHA has found that a high proportion of these incidents occurred because of a lack of fall protection: either employers were not providing appropriate fall protection to employees, or they are not ensuring that their employees use fall protection properly. As a result, communication tower climbers are falling to their deaths.”

OSHA is already targeting fall hazards, so don’t be surprised if they start pointing a laser focus on the cell phone tower industry. They don’t believe this is a price that should be paid for good service.

First Alberta OHS Officers Graduate as Peace Officers

April 2nd, 2014

PoliceThe first group of ten Alberta Occupational Health and Safety officers from the Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour has passed newly designed peace officer training, and have been granted peace officer status, which means they now have greater authority to enforce the rules, and to make sure workers on the job are safer moving forward.

With their new designation as peace officers, OHS officers can now write tickets to employers and workers who are trying to avoid the rules that are designed to keep everyone in the workplace safe.

Expect them to be busy. There are a total of 67 offenses that are immediately ticketable, all for specific violations of the OHS legislation. Here is a list. They can be given to any party subject to OHS laws, including workers, supervisors, contractors, including prime contractors and subcontractors, suppliers, and even employers. The fines associated with the tickets range from $100 to $500 and can be issued on the spot. Like parking or traffic tickets, the OHS tickets can be paid at any Alberta courthouse. And like traffic tickets, any party is allowed to plead not guilty and have the option of attending a court date.

More officers will graduate the training in June, and more groups will continue to be trained until all 143 compliance officers in the province have been certified to write tickets.

Worker Loses Fingers, Food Processor Loses $110,000 Fine

April 1st, 2014

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Last week, the Ontario Court of Justice hit Maple Leaf Consumer Foods, carrying on business as Maple Leaf Consumer Foods and Cappola Foods, with a $110,000 fine for an accident in which a worker using a meat chopping machine lost several fingers.

According to a report from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the plant worker was operating a meat chopper, which has a moving blade enclosed in a small cage. When the blade was being operated and the cage was lifted, the blade would slowly come to a stop. While the worker was operating the machine, he noticed that some meat had become stuck in the blade, so he lifted the safety cage and used a hook to try and pull the meat from the blade, which continued to spin. The hook then became caught by the moving blade, which pulled the worker’s hand toward the blade, where his hand come into contact with the blade, which resulted in the loss of several fingers.

After a thorough investigation, the Ministry of Labour charged Maple Leaf Foods with failure, as an employer, to ensure that a moving part of a machine was cleaned only after it had stopped.

The $110,000 fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace David J. Hunt, who also added in the 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

That means an easily avoidable accident ended up costing the company a total of $137,500. Compare that to the cost of training workers, and you’ll see what a bargain a safe workplace can be.

Excavator Accident in Alberta Kills Young Racecar Driver

March 31st, 2014

ExcavatorA worksite excavator accident in Fort McMurray, Alberta has taken the life of a promising young racecar driver from Fredericton, New Brunswick.

According to a preliminary report from the occupational health and safety (OH&S) department of the Alberta Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, the accident occurred on March 14, when a 21-year-old worker, Jordan Gahan, was operating an excavator at the bottom of a borrow pit, when it suddenly fell through some ice.

OH&S placed a stop-work order on the site, and they are conducting an investigation into the accident, but because it’s still ongoing, information was in short supply with regard to the details of the accident. All anyone knows at this time is that the excavator fell through the ice and Gahan, who worked for excavation company Brayford Trucking Ltd., is dead. A company spokesperson said the company does have extensive plans in place for trying to avoid accidents involving vehicles and unstable ice. An OH&S spokesperson did note that the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act did address working on ice.

According to various news reports, Gahan had moved to Alberta temporarily last August, and that he was planning to return home to New Brunswick at the end of March, to resume his budding racing career. He was a driver in the Pro Stock Division of the National Hot Rod Association, where he drove a Chevy with the number 16. In 2010, he was chosen the Pro Stock Rookie of the Year at Speedway 660, a racetrack in Geary, New Brunswick, and he placed third for the 2012 race season.

New Jersey Worker Crushed by Steel Beams

March 14th, 2014

depressedA New Jersey worker has died from injuries he suffered after a stack of steel beams fell on him on Thursday, March 6.

The accident occurred at Bushwick Metals in South Plainfield, at about 2:30 p.m. According to initial police reports, when emergency personnel arrived, the worker, later identified as 65-year-old Robert Donohue, had been pinned between several steel beams and a tractor-trailer. He was pronounced dead at the scene from his injuries.

A co-worker reported hearing “a loud bang,” and then turned to the noise and noticed a stack of steel beams had fallen over and struck Donohue.

Company officials did not comment on the incident because of the ongoing nature of the investigation, but the company had grief counselors at the site to deal with other employees. Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were onsite not long after the accident, and are continuing their investigation.

OSHA Preparing Guidance for New Hazard Communication Standard

March 13th, 2014

NewsThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is preparing a series of three guidance documents regarding its new hazard communication standard to make it easier for employers to be able to comply with the rule.

One document will be a guidebook on the standard that will be specially designed for  small- and medium-sized companies. A second document will focus specifically on hazard classification under the rule. The third will be a document produced by OSHA’s enforcement division that will serve as a compliance directive regarding the standard.

The agency finalized their updated hazard communication regulations back in March 2012, with the goal of synchronizing U.S. rules with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. Most of the regulations are set to take effect in June 2015. Before now, OSHA has issued fact sheets, quick cards and other guidance on the standard, and in recent months they’ve produced technical guidance on applying the regulations to unclassified hazards, as well as to combustible dust and petroleum. They have also issued advisories on specific target organ toxicity.

OSHA officials won’t say when the new guidance documents will be ready, but they hope the hazard classification guidance will be ready within a few months.

Company Fined $75,000, Supervisor Jailed For Fall That Left Worker Paralyzed

March 12th, 2014

InvestigationA Woodbridge, Ontario company that specializes in garbage removal and hauling, J.R. Contracting Property Services Ltd was hit with a $75,000 fine, and one company supervisor was sentenced to 45 days in jail. In addition, a company representative was fined $2,000 for attempting to obstruct the Ministry of Labour investigation.

The incident in question occurred on October 15, 2008, when workers were sent to a Toronto address to remove shingles from a single-storey residence. One worker, who was later identified as an employee of J.R. Contracting, was standing on the roof, tossing loose shingles toward a large bin. At one point, the worker stepped back and slipped, rolling off the roof and landing on a walkway below. As a result of the injury, the worker suffered permanent paralysis of the lower body.

During the Ministry of Labour investigation following the incident, the injured worker denied ever having received training in the use of fall protection equipment, and that no such equipment was provided. The worker also indicated that work was provided on an on-call basis, and that payment for work was cash.

According to the court, the worker qualified as an employee under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), that J.R. Contracting Property Services was the employer, and that Teisha (Tina) Lootawan was the supervisor. Because of this, Lootawan was found guilty of failure as a supervisor of taking the reasonable precaution of ensuring that an adequate form of fall protection was provided where a worker is exposed to a fall hazard of more than three metres.

At one point during the investigation, when Ministry of Labour investigators asked for documentation that included employment and telephone records, company representative Andrew Joshua Haniff refused to answer any of the inspector’s questions. For that, he was convicted of obstructing an inspector and fined $2,000.

The fines and the jail sentence were imposed by Justice of the Peace Mary A. Ross Hendriks after seven days of testimony over 2011 and 2012, the verdict was reached on April 18, 2013, with sentencing passed March 6, 2014. The fines were augmented by a 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

Newfoundland and Labrador Cares About Road Worker Safety

March 11th, 2014

Traffic ControlIn a workplace safety presentation at the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association (NLCSA) conference in St. John’s last week, Deputy Minister of Transportation and Works Brent Meade made it clear that he takes workplace deaths very seriously. He mentioned the two most recent fatal accidents very prominently, saying that they weigh heavily on his mind, as well as the minds of everyone working at the Ministry.

In one incident in July 2011, a Department of Transportation and Works worker was killed while conducting an evaluation on the Outer Ring Road in St. Johns. In the other, in July 2013, another department employee was killed as they set up signs for road painting on the Trans-Canada Highway near Flat Bay.

During his presentation, Meade noted that the Department has focused on three things that they hope will keep all of its 400 summer and 600 winter maintenance workers safe. Those three issues are: safe work practices, enforcement and education.

He has a number of safety concerns, mostly having to do with reports from road workers claiming that they are seeing an increasing number of distracted and speeding drivers, as well as an increased number of agitated and aggressive drivers these days. They’ve even reported incidents in which drivers have thrown objects at flaggers. As a response, they have doubled fines for traffic violations around road worksites. They are also looking into buying new equipment, such as barrier vehicles and data-collecting LED speed signs, which could also help to keep road workers safer. They are also working with law enforcement agencies to conduct more construction zone blitzes over the coming construction season.

Daylight Saving Time Change May Mean a Safety Risk

March 10th, 2014

tiredAccording to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), there is plenty of research to suggest that the week after the Sunday in March when we move the clocks ahead for Daylight Saving Time (DST) can be a very dangerous time for Canada’s workforce.

Canadians have once again turned their clocks ahead for an extra hour of daylight, but by doing so they have lost some precious sleep. According to an analysis of US Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that workers tend to get 40 minutes less sleep the night after the switch to DST. While that may not seem like a lot, a Michigan State University research study of mining injuries from 1983-2006 showed a 5.7% increase in workplace injuries and 67.6% increase in days missed the day after the time change. That would suggest that the loss of sleep may result in an increase in both the number and severity of injuries.

The problem may not be limited to workplace injuries. According to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), an analysis of data from 2005-2009 show the number of car accidents also increased by nearly 23% after the time change. One other factor supporting this data is research that shows accident and workplace injury numbers don’t increase significantly in November, when clocks are moved back, and they gain an extra hour of sleep.

As always, CCOHS has a few tips to alleviate this problem next year. First, you should advise workers to go to bed earlier. They also recommend moving dangerous work to a later part of the week, if possible, so that workers are better rested. In addition to keeping an extra keen eye on safety for the week following the switch.