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.

Worker Electrocuted in California

July 25th, 2014

Emergency truckCalifornia’s state Occupational Safety and Health agency, known as Cal/OSHA, is looking into the electrocution of a construction worker at Mission Viejo High, even though officials with the school district have no idea why the worker was there, or who hired the worker’s company to perform work at the school.

A three-man work crew was hanging a banner for a school event on the school’s field on the afternoon of July 17. One worker , 23-year-old Daniel Pohl, was working on a scaffold about 30 feet above the ground when he made contact with overhead wires, was electrocuted.

A second worker climbed up to the scaffold to assist Pohl. When he did so, he touched the wires with his neck, with the shock throwing him 30 feet onto the ground below. The second worker was burned on his neck and his hands, and he was found choking when an off-duty police officer from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department moved him onto his side to help him breathe. Both workers were transported to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where Pohl was pronounced dead on arrival and his still-unidentified co-worker was in serious condition.

A strange aspect to the incident is that no one knows who hired the company, Five Star Plastering, to hang the banner. The Saddleback Valley Unified School District claims they neither hired nor authorized them. The District is investigating that, while Cal/OSHA investigators are looking into what safety measures the company had in place, including what took, especially when work crews are operating near electrical lines.

Ontario Conducting Summer Construction Blitz

July 24th, 2014

MOLThe latest safety blitz by the Ontario Ministry of Labour is underway, and will continue through the rest of July and the entire  month of August, so employers in the construction field should be prepared.

Specifically, this blitz is focused on fall hazards at construction sites, which are the leading cause of critical injuries and fatalities in the province. Inspectors will be making visits to many construction sites, to make sure that everyone involved, including employers, supervisors and workers, is compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. They will primarily be targeting those workplaces with a high frequency of fall injuries, as well as those with a history of non-compliance. They will also respond to complaints. But even those construction sites with a good safety record could receive a visit. Inspectors will pay particular attention to making sure prevention policies and programs are in place, and that safe work practices are being followed.

More particularly, Ministry of Labour inspectors will pay close attention to openings in workplace surfaces, to make sure they have guardrails and protective coverings in place. They will also make sure that workers who use ladders, platforms and mobile stands receive proper supervision and have been properly trained. And, of course, they will make sure all workers are equipped with proper safety devices, including the fall protection systems and personal protective equipment required to keep them safe.

Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors have conducted 65 inspection blitzes and more than 340,000 field visits since June 2008 and, as a result, they have issued more than 550,000 compliance orders. In 2013 alone, 16 Ontario workers died and 134 were critically injured in accidents in the construction sector.

Maine Company Faces Huge Fine for Giving OSHA False Info

July 23rd, 2014

YouA Maine company, Formed Fiber Technologies Inc., which operates manufacturing plants in Ohio and South Carolina, faces $816,500 in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines today, largely  because the agency says the company falsely reported having corrected serious safety problems with hydraulic presses and other machinery in their manufacturing plants.

According to a statement from OSHA, the company stands accused of exposing workers to “amputations and other hazards” at their Ohio plant, which manufacturers interior trim for Toyota and General Motors vehicles. The agency also noted that Formed Fiber Technologies failed to take steps at the Ohio plant to prevent machinery from starting up unexpectedly and allowed their workers to use unsafe methods to shut machines down for maintenance, despite the fact that they knew the machines were hazardous and that they knew precisely how to eliminate those hazards.

“Formed Fiber Technologies apparently decided that production was more important than ensuring its workers’ safety. They provided false abatement documentation to OSHA. They knew how hazardous these machines were without proper safeguards and also knew exactly how to fix those hazards,” read the statement. “OSHA will not tolerate such blatant disregard for worker safety.”

In addition to the massive fines, the company has been placed in the US Department of Labor’s “Severe Violators Enforcement Program,” which is a list of companies found to have “willfully violate” workplace safety regulations. OSHA inspectors first uncovered 11 violations at the Ohio plant in October 2013. The agency then returned in January of this year and found many of the same violations, even though the company had assured them that every one of the violations had been corrected. Even before 2013, OSHA had inspected their factories 16 times, recording 80 violations.

Report Demands Better WorkSafeBC Investigations

July 22nd, 2014

InvestigationAccording to government officials in British Columbia, WorkSafeBC is about to undergo some significant changes with regard to the way it investigates workplace accidents.

Provincial officials released a report last week that took a look at the risks associated with dust at sawmills, based on two sawmill explosions — one in Burns Lake and one in Prince George – that were linked to wood dust. But in light of the fact that both  WorkSafeBC investigations into the blasts were badly botched, to the point that it was impossible to bring criminal charges, they also announced major changes to the investigatory process going forward.

The report includes more than 40 recommendations for future investigations, which the government insisted would be fully implemented. Among the recommendations include splitting the department that handles occupational death and injury investigations into two parts. There will also be increased inspections, a wider range of penalties, and the implementation of tickets and citations, with escalating penalties for repeat violations.

But the biggest change will come with the formation of specialized teams who will be specially trained to work with police and prosecutors. If agency investigators begin an investigation and decide that a prosecution is possible or desired, the original inspectors will hand it over to the team of specialists, who will then obtain the necessary warrants and warn employers of their charter rights. The team will then work directly with criminal justice branch prosecutors and a special constable would be assigned to co-ordinate with police.

These measures come in part because Crown prosecutors were unable to lay charges in connection with either of the two 2012 mill explosions, even though two workers died in each one. This is because of prosecutors’ concerns that most of the evidence collected by WorkSafeBC would be inadmissible.

Saskatchewan’s New Violation Ticketing System

July 21st, 2014

Saskatchewan FlagSince July 1, when a new measure took effect, employers in Saskatchewan who are found to have violated certain occupational health and safety laws may find themselves being issued a Summary Offence Ticket by a designated Occupational Health Officer.

These tickets, with which Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety officials hope to spur businesses to improve health and safety practices in the workplace, while at the same time attempting to avoid costly and time-consuming and costly prosecution, carry penalties of between $250 and $1,000, plus victim surcharges, depending on the offence.

Among the 12 possible ticketable offences the two designated Occupational Health Officers will be looking for include; failure to ensure that all workers are equipped with and using personal protective equipment (PPE); failure to ensure that all workers employ fall protection systems at heights of three metres or more; failure to make sure that any opening or hole is properly marked and covered. Each of those tickets could cost someone $1,000, while a ticket for failure to submit a written progress report could cost $600.

Workers should keep in mind that, while most of the tickets will be handed out to employers, contractors and the like, one ticketable offence will apply to workers, and could cost that worker $250. That offence will be for a failure to use PPE, although workers will only be cited once the Occupational Health Officer verifies that the correct PPE has been provided by the employer.

In all cases and for all offences, all tickets will only be issued in those cases where other compliance measures have been used previously and found to be ineffective.

Load Securement

July 18th, 2014

Whats wrong with this?

Recently we sent out a flyer with pictures of a vehicle that was secured to a trailer. The title of the flyer was “Get Tied Down”. There was an infraction in the picture. Did you see it? If you can tell me what the infraction is, you will be entered into a draw. Whats troubling so far is that out of the 1000 people it was sent to only 2 people have found it!

Do you know how to securely tie down your equipment?

Two Massachusetts Workers Killed in Boom Truck Collapse

April 18th, 2014

AmbulanceInvestigators from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are on the scene of an accident that happened last Saturday, April 12, in which two utility workers were working on electricity lines about 150 feet above the Scenic Highway in Massachusetts, when their boom truck collapsed, killing them on impact.

According to police, the utility workers, who worked for MassBay Electrical Corp., were performing maintenance on a power line at the Cape Cod Aggregate Corp., which is a sand and gravel pit in Bourne, a town on Cape Cod. The truck was positioned very close to a deep embankment when the boom collapsed with the two workers inside the truck’s bucket. After dropping 150 feet to the ground below, they fell another 75 feet down the embankment, as the truck flipped over.

Co-workers at the scene were described as shaken up, because they knew the two deceased workers very well. There weren’t many specific details about the accident early on, but in addition to OSHA’s investigation, the Massachusetts State Police and the Cape Cod and Island District Attorney’s office are also investigating the accident.

U.S. OSHA Orders CN Subsidiary to Reinstate Worker, Pay $350,000 in Wisconsin Case

April 17th, 2014

InvestigationThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered Wisconsin Central Limited railway, which is a subsidiary of Canadian National, to pay a $350,000 settlement to a Wisconsin conductor who was terminated after he had reported being injured while he was on the job.

According to OSHA officials, the conductor was injured in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, during his 60-day probationary period. While the injury was reported that day, it wasn’t until the end of his shift. Wisconsin Central terminated the conductor on the last day of his probation, claiming that he had failed to report the injury promptly.

OSHA disagreed with that assessment, and ordered that the worker be reinstated to his job, and that he be given $350,000 in compensation.

Officials with CN have suggested that the railway disagrees with the agency’s ruling and is considering its options for appeal.