OSHA has proposed $845,100 in penalties against RPI Coating Inc. of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and $189,900 in proposed penalties against the Public Service Co. of Colorado, doing business as Xcel Energy, for alleged serious and willful violations of federal workplace safety and health standards following a tunnel fire last year that killed five employees.
“This catastrophe could have been avoided if the companies had followed their critical safety procedures,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “There should never be such a disregard for the safety of employees. Today’s citations should serve as a reminder to all employers about the critical need to always provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees.”
The fire began at the Xcel Energy Cabin Creek hydroelectric plant in Georgetown, Colo., on Oct. 2, 2007, while employees were in a tunnel cleaning a sprayer with a flammable solvent. Vapor from the solvent ignited, causing the fire. Four employees escaped, but five employees working deeper inside the tunnel were unable to escape and died due to asphyxiation.
RPI has received 13 willful citations with proposed penalties totaling $778,500. These include three per-instance willful citations, alleging that RPI brought electrical equipment into the tunnel that was not safe because it could ignite the solvent. RPI also has received 10 willful citations alleging the unsafe handling of flammable liquids, failure to provide employees with adequate ventilation, failure to install carbon monoxide alarms, failure to arrange for emergency response in the event of an accident, failure to train on worksite chemical hazards, and a lack of fire extinguishers in the work area. It also has received 25 serious citations with penalties totaling $66,600 that include alleged fall hazards, the unsafe storage of flammable liquids outside the tunnel, and improper respiratory protection.
Xcel Energy has been issued two willful citations with proposed penalties of $126,000 for failing to take precautions to protect its own employees from hazards in the tunnel and to arrange for rescue services. Xcel Energy also has received 19 serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $63,900, which include alleged fall hazards, the unsafe storage of compressed gas, and electrical hazards.
OSHA Implements RSS Feeds for Its Communications Products
RSS is a Web-based technology used by businesses, organizations, and government to publish frequently updated content. OSHA news releases are the first RSS feed to be provided to stakeholders.
“We are excited to implement this technology as we continue to expand access to OSHA’s products for our stakeholders,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “RSS will help to ensure subscribers receive real-time news from OSHA.”
The RSS Reader regularly checks for new content from OSHA’s website and provides the user with a headline that links to the new posting and a short description. To receive OSHA’s RSS feeds, users can download an RSS Reader or use a Web-based RSS Reader.
Colorado Town Water Tests Positive for Salmonella
Laboratory results of Alamosa’s municipal water system have tested positive for salmonella, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
On March 24, officials at the state health department laboratory confirmed five out of six water samples taken from various areas around Alamosa tested positive for the bacteria. Presumptive test results from the laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also are positive. As of 11 a.m. on March 24, 217 cases of salmonella have been reported, with 68 confirmed. The source of the contamination is still being investigated.
Customers who pay their water bill to the City of Alamosa, which includes those in the Bonneyville Subdivision, are currently under a bottled water advisory. East Alamosa Water and Sanitation District customers are not affected by the bottled water advisory and will not be affected by the water treatment planned.
Alamosa city water officials will begin a three-stage water treatment process to disinfect the system and mitigate the problem. Information about salmonella is available at the COHELP line 1-877-462-2911.
Massachusetts Contractor Fined More Than $43,000 for Trenching and Ladder Hazards
OSHA has cited a Haverhill, Mass., contractor for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards at a Billerica, Mass., worksite. Cape Ann Equipment Inc. faces a total of $43,200 in proposed fines.
The citations and fines resulted from an OSHA inspection opened Sept. 17, 2007, when agency inspectors driving by a water main repair site at Boston Road and Cook Street observed a Cape Ann Equipment employee working in a 7-foot-deep trench that lacked any cave-in protection. OSHA standards require that all trenches 5 feet or deeper be guarded against a collapse of their sidewalls.
“The potential for death or serious injury in this or any unguarded trench is real and imminent,” said Rose Ohar, OSHA’s acting area director in Methuen. “Cave-ins occur suddenly and without warning, crushing employees beneath tons of soil or debris before they can react or escape. That’s why collapse protection must always be in place before employees enter a trench.”
OSHA has issued Cape Ann Equipment one willful citation, with a proposed fine of $42,000, for the lack of cave-in protection.
One serious citation, with a $1,200 fine, has been issued for ladder-safety deficiencies, including ladder misuse and an exit ladder of insufficient height. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Trenching safety is an OSHA priority. Under OSHA’s National Emphasis Program, agency inspectors will stop and open an inspection on the spot when they observe employees working in unprotected trenches, as happened in this case.
“Employers who are tempted to send their employees into an unprotected trench should reconsider, and not just because an OSHA inspector may spot them,” said Ohar. “They should think long and hard about the human, as well as the legal and financial, consequences if that trench collapses and buries employees.”
Cape Ann Equipment has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Methuen Area Office (617-565-8110).
Contractors Following Electrocution Death
OSHA cited two contractors—J&S Carpentry of Columbia, Maine, and Irving Equipment Inc. of Hampton, N.H.—for 15 alleged violations of safety standards following the electrocution death of an employee at a Hermon, Maine, residential construction site.
On Sept. 12, 2007, an Irving crane contacted an energized 7,200-volt overhead power line as two J&S Carpentry employees were attempting to attach the crane’s rigging equipment to a section of a modular home that was being constructed at 28 Lily Lane in Hermon. One of the employees was killed and the other seriously injured by the electric current.
OSHA’s inspection found that the crane was being operated within 10 feet of the power line, which had not been de-energized beforehand, as required. The two contractors face a combined total of $121,500 in proposed fines.
“The basic safeguards designed to prevent just this sort of accident were ignored here, with fatal results,” said William Coffin, OSHA’s area director for Maine. “De-energizing the power line and maintaining a safe working distance from it would have prevented this death and injury.”
J&S Carpentry, for whom the employees worked, was issued two willful citations for allowing employees to work in close proximity to the energized power line and for not protecting employees against fall hazards. OSHA also issued the company four serious citations for a lack of on-site medical attention; absence of hardhats and electrical warning signs; and ladder hazards. J&S Carpentry faces a total of $32,000 in proposed fines for these conditions.
Irving Equipment, which owned and operated the crane, has been issued three repeat citations for operating the crane in high winds, inadequate support for the crane’s outriggers, and not inspecting the jobsite to identify and correct these and other hazards. OSHA had cited the company in May 2005 for similar hazards at a Freeport, Maine, jobsite.
Irving Equipment also has been issued six serious citations for operating the crane within 10 feet of the power line; not operating the crane in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and industry standards; and lack of fall protection, hardhats, on-site medical attention, and an electrical warning sign. Irving Equipment faces a total of $89,500 in proposed fines for these conditions.
OSHA Cites Illinois Grain-Handling Company After Investigation Into Illinois Fatality
OSHA has proposed $158,250 in fines against Access Ag Inc., a Mazon, Ill.-based grain-handling company, for three alleged willful and four alleged serious violations of federal workplace safety standards found during a September 2007 investigation after an employee was asphyxiated in a grain bin.
The willful violations include failing to lockout equipment prior to bin entry to prevent accidental energy start-up; allowing employees to walk on the grain to make it flow; and failing to require employees to wear body harnesses with lifelines during bin entry.
The serious violations include deficient ladders; failing to provide rescue equipment for employees entering a grain bin; training deficiencies; failing to implement an emergency action plan; and failing to maintain communication between observers and persons entering the grain bin.
“Grain-handling standards were put into regulations approximately two decades ago, and OSHA continues to see a tragic disregard for safe work practices, resulting in employees being placed in harm’s way,” said Kathy O’Connell, the agency’s area director in North Aurora, Ill. “Failure to adhere to those standards will not be tolerated.”
Access Ag Inc. operates as a corporation in four Illinois locations: Mazon, Ransom, Dwight, and Odell. The grain co-op includes some 2,000 landowners and farmers.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Los Angeles Garment Manufacturers Cited by EEEC for Labor and Safety Violations
Investigators with the Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC) targeted garment industry businesses recently that were operating illegally in Los Angeles County, Calif.
Three teams of EEEC investigators visited 21 garment manufacturers and found that all of the businesses inspected had safety hazards, while 18 of the 21 were found in violation of California labor laws. Thirty-five citations were issued totaling $163,200.
“Our effort is to root out California’s underground economy by targeting businesses that avoid labor, tax and licensing laws, safety and health regulations and carry no workers’ compensation insurance,” said EEEC Director David Dorame. “By targeting enforcement against illegal operators, we help level the playing field for law-abiding businesses and their employees.”
The enforcement actions uncovered serious safety hazards and investigators spoke with an employee who recently had his finger amputated as a result of an accident involving a pleating machine. Three pleating machines were red-tagged for not having the proper guarding. Safety hazards found also included:
- Exposed moving parts on the belt/pulley and chain drive
- Unguarded pulleys
- Locked or blocked exit door
- Electrical panel boxes with live wires exposed
The sweeps exposed the following labor violations:
- Failure to keep records and post labor notices as mandated by law
- No workers’ compensation insurance
- Failure to keep accurate records for three years as required for garment manufacturers
- Failure to register as a garment manufacturer
Launched in July 2005 with the full support of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the EEEC was formed with a dual mission to enforce California labor laws and to educate business owners and workers on those laws and regulations. On the enforcement side, the EEEC aims to root out businesses participating in the underground economy, which costs the state and legitimate businesses millions of dollars each year, in many cases passing the cost on to the consumer. In addition, EEEC helps educate business owners on California’s employment laws and their responsibilities, as well as educates employees on their rights as workers at workshops and seminars.
EEEC is a collaboration of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency’s Department of Industrial Relations (Division of Occupational Safety and Health; Division of Labor Standards Enforcement) and the Employment Development Department. The U.S. Department of Labor participates in the EEEC, as well as the Contractors State License Board when targeting the construction industry.
The EEEC conducts enforcement sweeps in various industries, including garment, agriculture, construction, pallet, car wash, auto body, and restaurant, which have been identified as having a high degree of workplace violations and lack of regulatory compliance. Employees with work-related questions or complaints can call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757.
OSHA Investigations Result in Penalties Totaling $350,500 for Wynnewood Refining Co.
The alleged failure of Wynnewood Refining Co. to protect its employees from safety and health hazards in Oklahoma has resulted in a combined total of 50 alleged violations of standards following two separate OSHA investigations. The proposed penalties total $350,500.
“Wynnewood Refining did not follow OSHA’s process-safety management standards and procedures,” said Dean McDaniel, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas. “We have inspected the company five times in the last two years. It is fortunate that no injuries or fatalities have occurred.”
Citations resulting from an inspection begun Sept. 25, 2007, include 28 serious, three repeat, and four other-than-serious violations. The inspection, which was part of OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on safety management for refineries, brought proposed penalties totaling $187,500.
The serious violations include the company’s failure to provide employees with information relating to process-safety management elements; provide maintenance on deficient equipment; address safety-instrumented systems in process hazard analysis updates; provide a safe place to discharge flammable liquids from pressure vessels; provide equipment that complies with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices; address facility sitting in the process hazard analysis; and develop and implement safe work practices to control the entrance, presence, and exit of contract employers and employees.
The repeat violations include Wynnewood Refining’s failure to implement written procedures to address management changes to process chemicals and technology, and not inspecting self-contained breathing apparatuses. Repeat violations are issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same, or a substantially similar, violation that has become a final order.
OSHA issued other-than-serious citations for failing to protect access from fixed stairways to elevated work floors with handrails and not identifying confined spaces. Other-than-serious violations are issued when a violation has a direct relationship to job safety and health but is not serious in nature.
The agency previously issued citations to Wynnewood Refining for an inspection that began Sept. 20, 2007, and resulted in it becoming part of OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on safety management for refineries. Proposed penalties totaled $163,000 for 12 alleged serious and 3 alleged repeat violations.
The serious violations include the company’s failure to utilize a reliable gauging system to report crude oil tank levels and flows to the operator control room and not adequately maintaining tank level and flow monitoring systems. Repeat citations were issued for failing to: address process hazard analysis recommendations for the sulphur recovery unit; implement management-of-change procedures for a refinery structure; and investigate each incident that could result in a catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals.
Wynnewood Refining is an oil refinery that produces gasoline, propane, propylene, butane, fuel oils and solvents. The company has approximately 260 employees companywide and about 185 in Wynnewood.
OSHA Sues Company for Firing Suspected Whistleblower
The U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit against Brocon Petroleum Inc., and its president, Richard Kohler, on behalf of an employee who was terminated in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The Freehold construction company specializes in municipal sanitation projects.
The complaint alleges that the defendants terminated the employee in retaliation for the employee engaging in a protected activity. OSHA conducted an inspection of the employer’s worksite in response to an anonymous complaint about safety practices at the worksite. The defendants later that day fired the complainant because they believed the complainant had contacted OSHA.
The former employee filed a complaint with OSHA alleging retaliation by the defendants in violation of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act. OSHA investigated the complaint and determined it had merit. After being notified of OSHA’s findings, the defendants refused to reinstate the employee to the same or a substantially equivalent position of employment and to pay back wages or other employment benefits.
“Employees should be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers,” said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA’s acting regional administrator in New York. “This lawsuit underscores the Labor Department’s commitment to vigorously take action to protect those rights.”
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the complaint seeks to reinstate the employee; secure compensatory damages, lost back pay and punitive damages; and require the company to post a notice in a prominent place for 60 days that explains employee rights under Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 15 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, and securities laws.
Food Lion Store Temporarily Closed for Asbestos Investigation
A Food Lion grocery store located on S. Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, S.C., has voluntarily closed while an investigation is underway into the finding of asbestos in dust in the building during a renovation, according to an announcement by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced on March 26.
“A contractor began removing floor tiles last month with a process that is suspected to have released asbestos fibers from the mastic used to secure those tiles,” said Myra Reece, chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality. “The process that was used should have been done in a manner that limits the amount of asbestos released into the air, thus protecting the workers, store employees, and customers.”
Reece said anyone who was in the store between February 18 and March 25 should be aware of the issue.
“Our concern is that people who were in the store during this time may have breathed in asbestos fibers or purchased food products that may have asbestos-containing dust on them,” Reece said. “While air samples in the store during the project showed no asbestos, other DHEC samples on store surfaces found evidence of chrysotile, an asbestos mineral.”
Reece said asbestos is a term given to a group of highly fibrous minerals with separable, long and thin fibers. Asbestos fibers are heat resistant and have many industrial uses. Due to their durability, tiny asbestos fibers can be inhaled deep into lung tissue and remain for long periods of time resulting in health effects and illness decades later.
“While shoppers at the store between February 18 and March 25 could have been exposed, the potential for long-term health effects is low,” said Erik R. Svendsen, PhD, DHEC’s state environmental epidemiologist.
Svendsen said DHEC has prepared a fact sheet with answers to questions customers may have about the issue and what to do with food items purchased from the store between this time period.
OSHA Forms New Alliance With Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association
Through the Alliance agreement, OSHA and KCMA will work together to provide association members and others with materials, guidance, and access to training resources that will help them protect employees’ health and safety, especially in reducing and preventing exposure to amputation hazards.
“It is important to educate employees about safety and health hazards in the work environment,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “We are pleased that our new Alliance with KCMA will help us identify and guard against workplace hazards that are likely to cause amputations.”
OSHA and KMCA will provide expertise in developing information on the recognition and prevention of amputation injuries as well as ways of communicating such information (e.g., print and electronic media, electronic assistance tools, and OSHA’s and KCMA’s websites) to employers and employees in the industry.
Alliance members will promote the national dialogue on workplace safety and health by participating in forums, roundtable discussions, and stakeholder meetings on preventing amputations to help forge innovative solutions to hazards in the workplace.
KCMA is a national trade association that serves and represents kitchen, bath, and other residential cabinet manufacturers and suppliers.
OSHA Renews Safety Alliance With Marble Institute of America
OSHA and the Marble Institute of America (MIA) in Cleveland, Ohio, have renewed their alliance to provide MIA members and others with information and training resources that will help them continue to protect employees’ safety and health.
“The alliance will continue to demonstrate our commitment to finding cooperative ways to prevent workplace accidents,” said Rob Medlock, area director of OSHA’s Cleveland office. “It already has proven very successful, and we want to continue the excellent relationship that has helped so many companies in the natural stone industry.”
During the initial two-year alliance, OSHA and MIA worked successfully together to develop and communicate information to help the institute’s member employers and employees recognize and prevent job-related hazards, including exposure to silica and hazards related to handling slabs of stone. The alliance also has developed training and education programs for employers and employees.
“MIA’s alliance with OSHA has had a very positive impact on the safety awareness of the natural stone industry and on the tools made available to help train employees and improve job safety,” affirmed Gary Distelhorst, MIA’s executive vice president. “We are committed to continuing our efforts with OSHA to achieve greater employee safety.”
MIA represents professionals working with all types of natural stone, including marble, granite, limestone, quartz-based stone, slate travertine, and other materials.
OSHA safety and health alliances are part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s ongoing efforts to improve the safety and health of employees through cooperative partnerships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and government agencies. OSHA currently has more than 470 alliances throughout the nation with organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace.
OSHA Renews its Alliance With the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication
“In renewing our Alliance, the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC) is looking forward to working with OSHA to increase awareness and understanding of the impact of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) on hazard communication,” said Michele Sullivan, chair of the SCHC Board. “This is a time of change and growth for hazard communication and the Alliance provides an opportunity for a collaborative effort.”
SCHC promotes the improvement of the business of hazard communication for chemicals. It also provides guidance and technical expertise to private, nonprofit groups and government on improving hazard communication for chemicals.
OSHA Forms Safety and Health Partnership for Newport Naval Station Construction Project
The Providence, R.I., OSHA Area Office has formed a partnership with Consigli Construction Co., Inc., to provide exemplary safety and health protections for employees constructing a new training and support facility at the U.S. Naval Station and Officer Training Command in Newport, R.I.
“This partnership takes an aggressive stance against workplace hazards,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England. “It will emphasize training and a proactive analytical approach that will identify and eliminate potentially hazardous conditions before they hurt employees.”
The project involves the construction of an indoor swimming pool facility and building that will provide training and support functions for naval aquatic survival, officer accession, and combat training. Under the partnership, Milford, Mass.-based Consigli will develop and implement a comprehensive safety and health program that equals or exceeds OSHA guidelines.
The program will include employee involvement; effective employee training, including weekly, documented safety training; participation in OSHA’s 10-hour construction safety course by all site supervisors and employees; and documented safety inspections. Data will be collected to analyze injury and illness trends, including “near miss” incidents, so as to continually improve safety and health and help all contractors develop “zero tolerance” for hazards.
“It’s fitting that the construction of a facility designed to teach survival skills to military personnel will utilize a process that promotes survival skills among its builders,” said Patrick Griffin, OSHA’s area director for Rhode Island. “Through the mutual commitment of all parties, the hazards inherent in this type of construction project can and will be minimized and eliminated.”
OSHA’s Strategic Partnership Program is part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s ongoing efforts to improve the health and safety of employees through cooperative relationships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and employees. More than 1.4 million employees and more than 26,000 employers across the United States have participated with OSHA in more than 530 strategic partnerships since the program began in 1998.
OSHA and Home Builders of Western Massachusetts Join Forces to Enhance Safety for Region’s Residential Construction Industry
Enhancing the safety and health of employees in the region’s residential construction industry is the goal of a new alliance between the Springfield Area OSHA Office and the Home Builders Association of Western Massachusetts (HBAWM).
“Employees in residential construction are exposed to falls, electrical hazards, and being struck by or caught in or between materials and equipment,” said Mary Hoye, OSHA’s area director in Springfield. “This alliance seeks to equip association members and others with knowledge to better identify, anticipate, and eliminate the most common construction hazards, and thereby reduce the possibility of injuries.”
Under the alliance, OSHA and HBAWM will work together to develop and deliver training programs, including OSHA’s 10-hour and 30-hour construction safety courses, share information on best practices, and determine effective approaches to construction safety. It also will promote and encourage HBAWM members’ participation in OSHA’s cooperative programs, including the Voluntary Protection Programs, the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, and the safety consultation service offered through the commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Springfield-based HBAWM has served as a regional resource promoting professionalism and quality in the residential construction industry in western Massachusetts since 1939.
2008 National Public Health Week to Stress Healthier People and a Healthier Climate
This year’s theme is “Climate Change: Our Health in the Balance.”
On Monday, April 7, at 10:30 a.m., Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor Barbara O’Brien will join officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and local public health employees to kick off 2008 National Public Health Week at one of Colorado’s premier walkable communities.
“A walkable community, such as Stapleton, provides the perfect opportunity to promote the integration of healthy living and a healthy environment,” O’Brien said. “There is a direct connection between climate change and our health. During public health week, we want to bring attention to a healthier world. We want to see people making changes in their own lives to help lead to a healthier climate. We are prepared to travel, eat, live, and work differently. These changes have the added benefit of making us healthier too.”
Leading public health experts now say that climate change is one of the most serious public health threats facing the nation.
“The public health community has an important role to play in making the connection between the way we lead our lives, our impact on the planet, and the planet’s impact on our health,” said Jim Martin, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Policy makers and elected officials at the local, state, and national level need to understand the importance of having public health at the table for discussions about climate change. The American people need to know that they can make everyday choices and lead lifestyles that are healthy for them, their communities, and the planet.”
Very often, what’s good for the climate is good for people’s health, too. This is why some of the country’s top health and climate change experts have endorsed a series of recommendations for a healthier lifestyle and a healthier climate that include:
- Be Prepared. Inform yourself about the health impacts of climate change and regional climate change issues facing your community and take action to prepare for possible disasters.
- Travel Differently. Leave the vehicle at home and take public transportation instead. Walk or bike. If you need to drive, carpool. If you can, telecommute.
- Eat Differently and Exercise. Buy food from a community farmer’s market where food hasn’t traveled across the country to get to your supermarket shelves. Eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat. Do some form of physical activity at least 30 minutes each day, perhaps by breaking the activity into 10-minute increments throughout the day.
- Green Your Work. Participate in your community’s recycling program. Use recycled paper if you don’t already, and even if you do, print less often and on both sides of the paper. Set your computer to energy-saver mode and buy eco-friendly office furniture.
- Green Your Home. Insulate your home so energy isn’t literally going out the windows. Reduce your use of wasteful products, reuse or recycle the products you do use, and conserve water. Use compact fluorescent bulbs.