Officials issued a stern warning that corrupt workers will be punished, but they said the failure to inspect the crane on March 4 was almost certainly not a factor in the deadly collapse. The cause of the incident may have been the failure of a nylon strap, which led to a large steel collar coming loose.
DOE Cites Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC, for Worker Safety and Health Violations
BEA is the managing and operating contractor for DOE's Idaho National Laboratory (INL), located approximately 40 miles west of Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Three Years After Explosion at BP Texas City Refinery, CSB Releases New Safety Video on Accident
The accident occurred on March 23, 2005, during the startup of the BP Texas City Refinery's octane-boosting isomerization unit, when a distillation tower and attached blowdown drum were overfilled with flammable liquid hydrocarbons. Because the blowdown drum vented directly to the atmosphere, there was a geyser-like release of flammable liquid, forming a vapor cloud that spread rapidly through the area. A diesel pickup truck that was idling nearby ignited the vapor, initiating a series of explosions and fires that swept through the unit and the surrounding area. Fatalities and injuries occurred in and around occupied work trailers, which were placed too close to the isomerization unit and were not evacuated prior to the startup.
The safety video includes a new nine-minute 3-D computer animation of the sequence of events that led to the explosion, as well as sections describing BP's safety culture, the human factor safety issues that contributed to the accident, and the importance of safe equipment design and trailer siting.
The video also features interviews with key members of the CSB investigative team, who completed the 341-page public report on the causes of the accident approved by the Board at a public meeting in Texas City on March 20, 2007. In the video, CSB Board Member William Wright discusses the Board's safety recommendations from the accident and key safety lessons from the Board's investigation.
Three outside safety experts appear in the video to discuss their views of the long-term significance of the accident in Texas City. Prof. Trevor Kletz of Texas A&M University and Prof. Andrew Hopkins of the Australian National University explain the distinction between personal and process safety; the importance of reporting and investigating near-misses; and the need for modern, inherently safe equipment designs to prevent accidents. Mr. Glenn Erwin, a safety official with the United Steelworkers, describes his experience as a member of the independent Baker panel that was recommended by the CSB and commissioned by BP to examine the safety culture of its five U.S. refineries.
"We hope the lessons from this accident will be studied for years throughout the world's petrochemical industry," said CSB Chairman John S. Bresland, who accompanied the investigative team to the accident site in March 2005. "The safety video we are releasing today is critical to ensuring that the lessons from this tragedy are readily accessible to businesses and organizations around the world."
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA.
WISER 4.0 is Now Available
WISER, the Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders, is a system designed to assist first responders in hazardous material incidents.
This new version introduces a biological substance list to augment the existing chemical and radioisotope lists. Highlights of this version include:
- Substance data for the six “Category A” biological agents
- WMD Response Guidebook pages are included into the substance data where appropriate
- A new tool for general browsing of the guide pages of the WMD Response Guidebook (except for Palm OS)
- A new Radiation Unit Conversion tool
- WISER can now automatically check for updates
- Incorporation of the latest NLM Hazardous Substance Data Bank updates
- And many more miscellaneous application and data enhancements
Officials Provide Update on Bottled Water Order in Colorado
City of Alamosa, Colo., officials continue to work with the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Denver Water, Aurora Water, and Ft. Collins Utilities to plan the disinfecting and flushing of Alamosa’s municipal water system. Before any flushing can begin, there must be an adequate supply of bottled water available to meet the community’s needs and a clear plan in place so every resident is notified not to turn on their taps.
Plans are being developed with other cooperating municipal water treatment operators to have equipment and personnel in place to begin flushing the system as soon as an adequate program can be implemented. It still is yet to be determined the length of time that it will take to flush the system and complete post-disinfection testing.
In the meantime, residents are advised to only consume bottled water or water from sources other than the city’s municipal water system. Area residents and visitors should not be using tap water from the city’s water system for drinking and cooking.
When the flushing of the municipal water system begins, boiling water will not be adequate protection from the contaminated water. Only bottled water should be consumed from the time the flushing of the system begins until further notice from city and state officials. Officials will inform the public before the municipal system water flushing begins.
Officials from the Colorado Division of Emergency Management and the Emergency Preparedness and Response Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment continue to work with city officials with commercial water bottlers and suppliers to help provide bottled water to the community through distribution centers identified by the city.
To date, 138 cases of Salmonella have been reported. Of those 47 are confirmed by lab testing. There have been seven hospitalizations from among the 47 confirmed cases. The range in age of reported cases is from less than a year old to 89 years old.
Salmonella is a common bacteria than can cause serious illness. It often comes from contaminated food, but it can come from contaminated water.
The Consumer Protection Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has staff in Alamosa and is in the process of contacting all restaurants, schools, child care centers, grocery stores, food manufacturers, and food storage facilities providing guidelines.
Those guidelines include discarding produce that has already been washed or sprayed by a produce mister with city water. For example, lettuce, raw carrots, or other raw vegetables that won’t be fully cooked before service should be discarded. Potatoes, squash, or other vegetables that would be fully cooked before serving do not need to be discarded. In addition to produce, any prepared or processed foods prepared with city water also should be discarded. Ice made from city water should not be used, and canned or bottled drinks should be substituted for soda fountain drinks using city water.
Seeking Medical Consultation
Salmonella symptoms usually begin about one to three days after exposure and include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Illness usually lasts four to seven days and most people will recover without medical treatment. However, the diarrhea can be severe, and the person may be ill enough to require hospitalization.
Most children and healthy adults with diarrhea should be able to remain at home and may not need to see a health care provider. The important goal is to prevent dehydration from the diarrhea. To prevent dehydration, drink a rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte, or drink soups alternating with fruit juice. Drink a cup or more of liquid for each large, loose stool.
Infants under 3 months of age, the elderly or frail, and people with underlying illnesses are more likely to require medical care. Persons who feel they are seriously ill or who are worsening despite home treatment may need urgent care such as intravenous fluids, and should see a health care provider.
Information about salmonella is available at the COHELP line at 1-877-462-2911. People can call for recorded information in English and Spanish between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m., Monday through Friday.
State consumer protection officials provided the following guidance during the bottled water order:
- At home, use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, making ice, washing dishes, and for adding to any food especially for the preparation of baby formula.
- Home-style/domestic dishwashing machines are adequate for sanitizing if the heat drying cycle is applied.
- Bathing and showering in the water should present no problems for healthy individuals. Exercise caution not to ingest water during such activities.
- No commercial food preparation should be done unless approved by the local public health agency.
- Consider using prepared food from an alternative approved source.
- Use only prepackaged foods that do not require any additional preparation other than heating in its original container.
- Frequently wash hands and apply hand sanitizer after washing.
- During food preparation, do not touch food with bare hands. Use disposable gloves.
- Use frozen/canned fruits and vegetables.
- Purchase packaged potable ice.
- Do not use water to wash plates, cups, and utensils. Use only single-service utensils, such as paper plates, napkins, cups, plastic spoons, forks, and knives.
MSHA Fines Utah Coal Operator $420,300 for Violations Involving Fire and Explosion Hazards
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has assessed $420,300 in fines against Andalex Resources Inc. for violations relating to potential fire and explosion hazards at the Aberdeen Mine in Price, Utah. Two citations issued Oct. 26, 2006, and June 20, 2007, were assessed as “flagrant violations” under the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act based on the operator’s repeated violation of the same safety standard. Robert E. Murray controls Andalex Resources Inc., which operates the mine.
“Mine operators that repeatedly violate mine safety standards must be held accountable for their actions,” said Richard E. Stickler, acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.
According to MSHA inspection records, the mine operator allowed excessive accumulations of hydraulic oil, and fine coal particles covered the hoses, electric conduit, and tram motors on electric equipment. In addition, the mine operator allowed excessive accumulations of potentially explosive float coal dust and other combustible material to accumulate on a dangerously maintained conveyor belt. Such accumulations provide substantial fuel to propagate a mine fire.
These violations were cited during two routine regular safety and health inspections. A flagrant violation is defined as “a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory safety and health standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injury.” Under the MINER Act, a civil penalty of up to $220,000 may be assessed for each flagrant violation. The two citations that were determined to be flagrant violations were assessed at $220,000 and $200,300.
UPS Pays $254,000 to Mechanic Following Whistleblower Investigation by OSHA
As the result of an investigation by OSHA, United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) has paid $254,000 to a mechanic who was terminated by the delivery carrier after complaining about unsafe conditions in trucks at the company’s Watertown, N.Y., garage.
The former employee filed complaints with OSHA alleging violations of the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) and the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. OSHA’s investigation found merit to the complaints, and the agency informed UPS on Dec. 20, 2007, of this preliminary finding.
After receiving OSHA’s findings, UPS elected to settle the case. In addition to paying the complainant the $254,000 in remedies, UPS will post OSHA whistleblower fact sheets in all of its N.Y. facilities and agrees not to interfere with, coerce, or restrain its employees from exercising their rights under STAA and the OSH Act. In agreeing to the settlement, UPS neither admits nor denies the allegations of the complaint.
“Employees are entitled to raise legitimate workplace safety and health concerns without fear of termination or retaliation,” said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA’s acting Regional Administrator in New York. “We will not hesitate to ensure that right is legally protected. In this case, the settlement goes beyond one employee in one location and ensures that UPS employees throughout the Empire State are aware of this vital safeguard.”
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 15 other statutes covering employees in the transportation, environmental, and financial services industries. These include STAA, which provides protections for private-sector drivers and other employees relating to the safety or security of commercial motor vehicles.
OSHA Confirms Effective Date of Direct Final Rule to Update Its Standards Based on National Consensus Standards
“This rule is part of OSHA’s ongoing effort to update its regulatory references to consensus standards,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “The revised standards will eliminate duplicative and confusing references in OSHA regulations, while maintaining current levels of protection.”
In the direct final rule, OSHA is eliminating several references to consensus standards with requirements that duplicate or are comparable to other OSHA rules. It also removes a reference to American Welding Society standard A3.0-1969 (“Terms and Definitions”).
Additionally, the direct final rule updates standards such as 29 CFR part 1910, Subpart H (“Hazardous Materials”), 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart Q (“Welding, Cutting and Brazing”), 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart R (“Special Industries”).
This direct final rule, published in the Dec. 14, 2007, Federal Register (72 FR 71061) was effective March 13, 2008.
OSHA Forms Alliance With New York’s Mohawk Valley Safety Professionals Consortium
Enhancing workplace safety and health in the Mohawk Valley is the goal of a new alliance between the Syracuse, N.Y., Area OSHA Office and the Mohawk Valley Safety Professionals Consortium (MVSPC).
“Alliances such as this one are 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,” said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA’s acting Regional Administrator in New York.
Under the alliance, OSHA and MVSPC will work jointly to provide the consortium’s members and others with information, guidance, and access to training resources that will help them protect their employees’ health and to develop effective safety and health management systems.
Goals will include delivery of OSHA’s 10-hour Occupational Safety and Health Standards course, sharing of best practices and effective approaches to safety and health, and promoting and encouraging MVSPC members’ participation in OSHA’s cooperative programs, including the Voluntary Protection Programs, the safety consultation service, and the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.
“This alliance seeks to equip employers and employees with an invaluable tool: the knowledge to identify and address on-the-job hazards,” said Christopher Adams, OSHA’s area director in Syracuse. “The effective use of that knowledge will mean safer and healthier workplaces here in the Mohawk Valley.”
The MVSPC was founded in 2001 and is comprised of area manufacturers, educational organizations, health care groups, service providers, and other professionals.
OSHA’s safety and health alliances provide parties an opportunity to participate in a voluntary cooperative relationship with the agency for such purposes as training and education, outreach and communication, and promoting a national dialogue on workplace safety and health. Alliances have proved to be valuable tools for both OSHA and its alliance partners.
Washington Department of Ecology and Health Officials Respond to Lead Contamination in Tacoma
The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) is working with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) to address lead contamination at a home in a Tacoma neighborhood.
Tests showed that children who lived in the rental house had high blood lead levels. Subsequent site sampling confirmed high levels of lead in and around the home. The family no longer lives at the property, which is subject to a local health district order prohibiting access. State and federal privacy laws restrict the release of additional information without the family’s consent.
“Preventing exposure to lead and lead-poisoning is one of our top priorities because of the known health impacts from lead, especially to children,” said Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Senior Manager, Steve Marek. “The issuance of a health order to disallow access until the property can be declared safe will prevent anyone else from being harmed from the high levels of lead present on the site.”
The local health department’s initial investigation indicates the contamination stems from a longtime lead-melting operation carried out on-site by the property owner. The state Department of Health (DOH) reviewed soil sample data and available blood lead levels, determined a health risk exists, and made recommendations in a draft health consultation.
Ecology and the TPCHD are working with the owner to fence the property to protect others from potential lead exposure. Soil samples collected at the home showed lead levels as high as 2,300 parts per million. In Washington, cleanup actions are triggered by lead levels of 250 parts per million or more.
Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program has funds available to help pay for some soil sampling and small-scale soil cleanup where children are most likely at risk of exposure to lead.
“One of Ecology’s top priorities is reducing toxic threats to people and the environment. Lead poses an acute threat to children. We have cleanup programs specifically designed to safeguard children from lead exposure,” said Marian Abbett of Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program.
Ecology and local health staff recently walked the neighborhood to talk with residents about the situation. They provided information on blood lead testing and secured permission to test soil at properties closest to the contaminated home. They also shared practical tips to reduce the risk of harm from dirt that may be contaminated with lead or other chemicals.
Lead is a highly toxic metal. Once absorbed into the body, it can cause permanent health effects such as behavioral problems and learning disabilities. High exposure can cause seizures and death. Children age 6 years old and younger are most at risk because their bodies are growing quickly, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Lead is a bigger hazard to children than to adults because:
- Babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them, which can be swallowed.
- Children’s growing bodies absorb more lead.
- Children’s developing brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
Even though the United States has taken steps to eliminate lead from products such as gasoline and paint, lead-based paint in pre-1978 homes is still the largest source of exposure for children. Some older homes have lead pipes or copper pipes with lead solder. Many new and existing products contain potentially harmful amounts of lead. And soil can be contaminated from past uses of leaded products or industrial sources like smelters.
A simple blood test can determine whether someone has been exposed to too much lead.
Later this spring, Ecology will introduce a chemical action plan with suggested approaches to further reduce the uses, releases, and exposures caused by lead. This draft strategy is part of Ecology’s ongoing efforts to reduce and phase out the uses of harmful chemicals that build up and persist within the environment.
OSHA Forms Partnership With Contractors Building the Sedgwick County Arena in Wichita, Kansas
OSHA has formed a partnership to ensure the highest level of employee safety and health during the building of the Sedgwick County Arena in Wichita, Kan. The new facility will be a 15,000-seat, four-level, multi-purpose sports and entertainment venue.
Representatives from OSHA, the Kansas Consultation Program, Dondlinger Construction Co., and Hunt Construction Group participated in a signing ceremony March 19 at the construction site. Members of the public who are interested in information about this partnership should contact OSHA’s Wichita Area Office at 316-269-6644.
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 26,000 employers across the United States have participated with OSHA in more than 530 strategic partnerships since the program began in 1998.