NIOSH Warns of Unapproved N-95 Respirator

July 03, 2006

NIOSH discovered that 2HDistributors is falsely representing and selling a particulate respirator called Nano Guard as a NIOSH-approved respirator. The Nano Guard respirator is individually packaged and improperly labeled with the NIOSH and Department of Health and Human Services logos. Additionally, the label contains a NIOSH approval number, TC-84A-4175, which was not issued to 2HDistributors.

A NIOSH approval is issued to a respirator only after it has been evaluated in the laboratory and found to comply with all the requirements of 42 CFR 84, including a review of the manufacturer’s quality plan. The Nano Guard N95 particulate respirator is not certified or approved by NIOSH.


Cause of BP Trailer Explosion Identified

The accident at BP killed 15 workers and injured some 180 others when flammable liquid and vapor overfilled a blowdown drum during the startup of the refinery's isomerization unit. All of the fatalities and many of the injuries occurred in and around trailers that had been positioned near the isomerization unit to support maintenance activities on adjacent refinery units.

The data released include details of the injuries and structural damage that occurred among 44 different trailers that were located in the vicinity of the isomerization unit. The 15 fatalities occurred in or near two trailers that were located 121 to 136 feet from the blowdown drum. Occupants were injured in trailers as far away as 479 feet from the drum. Damage was noted in trailers almost 1000 feet away.

On October 25, 2005, the CSB issued an urgent recommendation to the American Petroleum Institute (API) to develop new industry guidance "to ensure the safe placement of occupied trailers and similar temporary structures away from hazardous areas of process plants." The API announced it would begin work on the new guidance and convened a committee of industry representatives that has since met several times.

The CSB's urgent safety recommendation called on the industry to establish minimum safe distances for trailers away from hazardous process areas. The CSB noted that, for reasons of convenience, trailers are often placed close to refinery units during maintenance activities. Unlike permanent structures such as control rooms, trailers can easily be relocated to safer positions.

"The information we made public today underscores just how vulnerable trailers are to serious blast damage. Placing trailers where there is a possibility of explosion poses an unacceptable risk to occupants," said board member John S. Bresland. "At a distance of 597 feet from the source of the flammable vapor, the roof of one trailer collapsed and its walls were heavily damaged. Modest explosion overpressures that would cause no significant harm to a modern blast-resistant refinery control room can devastate a trailer."

"We are providing our findings to the American Petroleum Institute to help expedite the development of new guidance that is based on the best available science and provides adequate protection for industry workers," Mr. Bresland said.

Following the accident, BP developed a new corporate trailer siting policy that provides exclusion zones for areas where explosions are possible. The BP policy states that all occupied trailers should be located outside of vulnerable areas even if this means a location outside the site boundary. A large number of Texas City personnel were relocated to a permanent building away from the refinery.

Board investigators issued preliminary findings about the accident at a public meeting in Texas City on October 27, 2005. The Board's final report on the root causes of the accident at BP is expected to be released before the end of the year.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. 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. 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 safety management systems, regulations, and industry standards.


OSHA Cites Savannah, Ga., Contractor for Trenching Hazards

OSHA has cited Savannah-based D & R Utility Construction, and proposed penalties totaling $105,000, following a trenching safety inspection at a Pooler, Ga., worksite.

"OSHA's safety standards must be followed to protect workers from potential cave-in hazards," said John J. Deifer, OSHA's area director in Savannah. "Trenching remains one of the most hazardous jobs in construction. It's fortunate that no one was injured."

D & R Utility Construction was cited with one alleged repeat and two alleged willful violations following the inspection by OSHA's Savannah area office which, began Jan. 25. The inspection found several instances where workers were exposed to hazardous cave-in conditions.

The two citations for willful violations were issued for failing to protect employees working in a seven-foot deep trench with adequate cave-in protection and for permitting employees to work in an area where excavated soil was placed at the edge of the trench. OSHA standards require that soil be placed at least two feet from the edge of a trench. OSHA issues willful citations when employers have shown intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

Additionally, one repeat citation was issued for failing to provide employees with required head protection while working in a trench with overhead hazardous conditions. The company had been cited previously for a similar violation. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has previously been cited for a similar hazard and that citation has become a final order.


Missing LOTO Safeguards Lead to Crushed Arm and $71,200 in Penalties

A Texas-based cement manufacturing company's alleged failure to properly protect its workers from safety and health hazards at its cement products plant in Middleboro, Mass., has resulted in proposed OSHA penalties of $71,200.

OSHA cited Pavestone Inc. for 18 alleged serious, three alleged repeat and nine alleged other-than-serious violations of safety and health standards. OSHA's Braintree area office began an inspection Dec. 28, 2005, in response to a report that a worker's arm was crushed by a hydraulic device while working on a conveyor belt. The inspection found that a safety switch had been bypassed and lockout procedures were not in place.

"Workers were exposed to the hazards of crushing, falls, electrocution, burns, and respiratory illness," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for southeastern Massachusetts. "If the company had followed OSHA's safeguarding standards, this unfortunate accident may have been avoided."

Safety hazards included unguarded portions of the conveyor belt, fall hazards, propane tanks exposed to damage, electrocution hazards and defects involving a hoist and lifting slings. Health hazards included employee overexposure to silica, inadequate engineering controls to reduce silica and dust levels, deficient respirator and confined space entry programs, lack of annual audiograms for all workers exposed to high noise levels, ladder misuse, and incomplete illness and injury logs.

A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has previously been cited for a similar hazard and that citation has become final. An other-than-serious citation is issued for a condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.


OSHA Fines Hospital $112,500 for Formaldehyde Hazards

A Flushing, N.Y., hospital's alleged failure to protect workers from exposure to formaldehyde has resulted in $112,500 in OSHA fines.

New York Hospital of Queens was cited for two alleged willful and three alleged serious violations of health and safety standards following an inspection by OSHA's Queens district office, which began Dec. 15 in response to an employee complaint. The complaint concerned possible overexposure to formaldehyde for pathology assistants and oral pathology residents working with specimens stored in containers filled with formalin, a preservative that contains formaldehyde.

The hospital did not promptly monitor employees' exposure to formaldehyde after they reported signs, symptoms or respiratory conditions consistent with exposure and did not ensure that all employees who worked with formaldehyde were properly trained.

"Exposure monitoring and employee training are key tools for identifying and addressing formaldehyde hazards before they affect workers," said Richard Mendelson, OSHA's area director for the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, N.Y. "The hospital knew these safeguards were required and did not implement them even after employees displayed exposure symptoms."

The willful violation citations, carrying $99,000 in proposed fines, were for failure to promptly monitor employees with exposure to, and provide training for employees having exposure to, formaldehyde. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

Serious violation citations were for failing to repeat initial exposure monitoring when there were changes in personnel and control measures, failing to provide medical surveillance for overexposed employees and failing to inform employees of the results of exposure monitoring. Proposed fines totaled $13,500. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas often used as a preservative in medical laboratories. A suspected human carcinogen, it has been linked to nasal and lung cancer, with possible links to brain cancer and leukemia. Acute exposure is highly irritating to the eyes, nose and throat. Long-term exposure to low levels may cause respiratory problems and skin irritation.


Safety Bulletin Issued on Pressure-Relief Valve Standards and Good Safety Practices

 The accident occurred when gas released by a pressure relief valve on a propylene cylinder ignited.

The Safety Bulletin, titled "Dangers of Propylene Cylinders in High Temperatures: Fire at Praxair St. Louis," includes key findings, best practices for cylinder storage, and safety recommendations.

In addition, the CSB has released a safety video on the incident, which includes a computer animation depicting the gas release, as well as video of the initial release and fire taken by a Praxair security camera. The video features comments by CSB investigators and Chairman Carolyn W. Merritt. This safety video may be viewed online in the video room of the Board's website, Free DVD copies may also be obtained by filling out a request form on the website.

The bulletin notes that as a result of the fire, dozens of exploding cylinders were launched into the surrounding community and struck nearby homes, buildings, and cars, causing extensive damage and several small fires. Workers and customers quickly evacuated the facility after a worker sounded the alarm at the plant. Fortunately, residents escaped injury from the falling fragments.

The accident occurred on a summer day with a high temperature of 97 F in St. Louis. At Praxair, cylinders were stored in the open on asphalt, which radiated heat from the direct sunlight, raising the temperatures and pressure of the gas inside the cylinders. At approximately 3:20 p.m., a propylene cylinder pressure-relief valve began venting. CSB investigators believe static electricity created by escaping vapor and liquid most likely ignited the leaking propylene.

Praxair security camera video shows the initial fire spreading quickly to other cylinders. Exploding cylinders – mostly acetylene – flew up to 800 feet away, damaged property, and started fires in the community. The fire could not be extinguished until most of the flammable gas cylinders were expended. An estimated 8,000 cylinders were destroyed in the fire, which took five hours to control.

The investigation determined that the pressure-relief set points specified in industry standards are too low for propylene and may allow the gas to begin venting during hot weather well below the pressures that could damage the cylinders. Not only are the specified set points too low for propylene, the CSB found some valves begin releasing gas even before the pressure reaches the set point. Each time a pressure-relief valve opens its performance deteriorates, making it more likely to vent gas at too low a pressure in the future.

CSB lead investigator Robert Hall said, "The key lesson learned in our investigation is that the combination of high ambient temperatures and relief valves that open at too low a pressure increase the risk of catastrophic fires at these facilities."

The CSB bulletin lists three similar fires at gas repackaging facilities that were reported to be caused by leaking propylene containers since 1997. Fires occurred at another Praxair facility in Fresno, California just a month after the St. Louis accident; an Airgas facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and an Air Liquide facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

Board Chairman Carolyn W. Merritt said, "The fire at Praxair was serious and not the only one that has occurred at compressed gas facilities. The accidents show the need for companies to follow best practices for outdoor cylinder storage and fire protection. We hope the industry takes notice with the coming of summer and high ambient temperatures in cylinder storage yards."

The CSB Safety Bulletin lists several best practices for cylinder storage at gas repackaging facilities, including fire protection systems to cool cylinders and limit the spreading of fires, adding barriers to contain exploding propylene cylinders within the facility, and gas detection systems that can sound alarms and activate fire mitigation systems.

The Board recommended that the Compressed Gas Association (CGA) revise its standards for propylene relief valves to provide a greater margin of safety and improved reliability.


OSHA Inspection Program Targets High Hazard Industries in Kansas

High-hazard industry workplaces in Kansas are the focus of a local emphasis program being conducted by the Wichita-area OSHA office. Inspectors will focus on establishments with ten or more employees that have not had a comprehensive OSHA inspection since 1995.

"In an effort to prevent accidents and illnesses before they happen, the local emphasis program will involve both safety and health OSHA compliance inspections of high-hazard industry establishments in Kansas," said Charles E. Adkins, CIH, OSHA regional administrator in Kansas City.

Adkins explained that the local emphasis program supplements a national effort by OSHA called the site-specific targeting (SST) program that annually identifies workplaces throughout the United States with high rates of injuries and illnesses.

The Kansas program is intended to increase the probability that workplaces in high-hazard industries in the state will undergo an inspection. Establishments identified on the high-hazard safety list will receive a comprehensive safety inspection. Establishments identified on the high-hazard health list will receive a comprehensive health inspection. Any business named on both lists can expect to have both comprehensive safety and health inspections.

The local emphasis program expires May 10, 2007 and may be renewed based upon OSHA's evaluation of the program.

Additional information about the local emphasis program is available from OSHA's Wichita area office at (316) 269-6644, or toll-free in Kansas at 1-800-362-2896.


OSHA Unveils Safety and Health Topics Page for Concrete and Concrete Products Industry

OSHA announced the availability of a new page on the agency's web site that provides web-based assistance for employers and employees in the concrete products industry.

"This new resource provides useful information and guidance that will help foster a safer work environment for employees involved in cement production and manufacturing, and cement-related construction," said OSHA Administrator Ed Foulke. "The development of this page also demonstrates how we leverage our resources and work in cooperation with organizations to improve workplace safety and health."

Visitors to the site can access information to develop and implement comprehensive safety and health programs, including several examples from the construction and manufacturing portions of the industry. Also available are links to other resources that identify the most common industry hazards and possible solutions to those hazards.

The page highlights OSHA standards, compliance directives, and standards interpretations related to manufacturing and construction in the concrete and concrete products industry. It also includes electronic assistance tools and expert advisors, Spanish language materials, training information, success stories, and additional resources from OSHA and other organizations.

Employers and employees can access information that can be used to develop and implement safety and health programs and link to sites that identify hazards and possible solutions to those hazards.


Sears Agrees to Corporatewide Safety and Health Program for Powered Industrial Trucks

Sears, one of the nation's largest retailers, will adopt a safety and health program to ensure that all powered industrial trucks are operated in a safe manner, as part of a settlement agreement announced by OSHA. The settlement applies to all Sears stores within federal OSHA jurisdiction.

"We are pleased to resolve this matter and avoid the time and expense of litigation," said Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., OSHA Administrator. "We can quickly move forward with steps to ensure safe practices when operating powered industrial trucks and better protect Sears' employees."

The agreement settles citations issued by OSHA Sept. 29, 2005, to a Sears store in Monaca, Pa., following an accident investigation in which the company was cited for exposing employees to fall hazards from powered industrial trucks. The agency found that employees were allowed to ride on unsecured platforms, without guardrails on the forks of the trucks. OSHA also found that fork truck operators were not trained and the company failed to provide personal fall arrest systems to employees or equip trucks with overhead guards to protect employees from falling objects.

"This agreement represents a major commitment to ensure safety and provide the employees the needed training and protection," added Foulke. "Sears has agreed to implement changes not only at the Pennsylvania store but also at all locations within federal OSHA jurisdiction."

Under terms of the agreement, Sears' safety and health program will include formal instruction, practical training, and the evaluation of each truck operator's performance at least once every three years. The company has also committed to maintaining all powered industrial trucks in safe operating condition, and implementing and enforcing a corporate-wide policy that allows only properly trained employees to be elevated and operate the trucks. The company also agreed to pay a penalty of $70,000.


OSHA Resuming Regular Enforcement throughout Mississippi

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., announced that OSHA will resume regular enforcement of job safety and health standards south of Interstate 10 in Mississippi. Prior to the announcement, OSHA had exempted that part of the state from its normal enforcement operations as a result of last year's hurricanes along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma last summer, OSHA exempted a number of counties and parishes in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana from regular enforcement status. In those areas, OSHA limited its inspections to cases involving fatalities, catastrophic accidents or complaints.

On Jan. 25, the agency resumed normal enforcement throughout Florida and Alabama, and in Mississippi north of Interstate 10. OSHA is still refraining from normal enforcement operations in the following areas of Louisiana: the cities of New Orleans and Slidell, and the parishes of St. Bernard, Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Charles, Cameron, Calcasieu, and St. Tammany.

"As we did in January, we can now resume our full normal operations throughout another part of the U.S. Gulf Coast that was impacted by last year's devastating storms," said Foulke. "Recovery operations throughout all of Mississippi -- while still ongoing -- has progressed to a level where we are comfortable resuming normal enforcement operations."

Foulke emphasized, however, that the new hurricane season is upon us and the agency's enforcement role will be adjusted as needed. "Our regional administrators will assess situations as they arise," he said, "and we are prepared to provide job safety and health technical assistance to employees involved in any necessary response operations."


Pennsylvania Reports First Positive West Nile Mosquito for 2006 Season

A mosquito sample in Harrisburg has tested positive for West Nile virus – the first in Pennsylvania for the 2006 season. “We’ve detected West Nile virus in mosquitoes, which means it’s time for Pennsylvanians to take steps to reduce the risk of becoming infected,” Health Secretary Dr. Calvin B. Johnson said. “If you’re going to be outside, remember to use insect repellant containing DEET – especially during dawn and dusk – and wear long sleeves and light-colored clothing.”

While most people infected do not get sick, a small percentage of those infected will experience a fever, rash, headache, meningitis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anyone is at risk, but older adults and people with compromised immune systems have the highest risk of developing severe illness because their bodies have a harder time fighting off disease. West Nile Virus cases occur primarily in late summer or early fall. In previous years, the first positive mosquito tests were reported on July 7, 2005; July 22, 2004; and June 18, 2003.

Last year there were 25 cases of human West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania and two deaths that may have been related to the infections.

“DEP staff is working with county coordinators to keep the mosquitoes under control, but you can take some simple steps in your back yard to help,” Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said. “Remember: Dump it if it has water in it; drain it if it can be drained; and treat it if it has standing water.”

“Similar to people, animals become infected with the West Nile virus only after being bitten by an infected mosquito,” Agriculture Secretary Dennis C. Wolff said. “Horses are most susceptible to illness after exposure, and we will continue to work with veterinarians and horse owners across the state to monitor horse populations. Owners should contact their veterinarians for vaccinations against the disease.”

It is especially important for people to eliminate or treat standing water on their properties after the heavy rains that hit the state over the past few days. Mosquitoes will develop in any standing water or puddle that lasts more than four days.

Tips to eliminate standing water include:

  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers that have accumulated on your property.
  • Pay special attention to discarded tires that may have accumulated on your property.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of containers that are left outdoors.
  • Drainage holes that are located on a container’s sides allow them to collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed.
  • Clean clogged roof gutters as needed.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools, wheelbarrows and birdbaths when not in use.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.


OSHA Clarifies Jurisdiction for Department of Energy Sites in 14 States

Those states include Arizona, California, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. 


July is Eye Injury Prevention Month

 The best way to prevent eye injuries in the workplace is to use proper protective eyewear. Some immediate tips for protecting your eyes on the job include:

  • Always wear effective eye protection.
  • Use eyewear that is appropriate for the hazard encountered and that fits properly.
  • Be trained on where and what kind of eyewear should be used.
  • Properly maintain eye protection devices.



Investigation Announced for Fatal Explosion and Fire at Universal Form Clamp Co.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) announced it will pursue an investigation of the fatal explosion and fire at Universal Form Clamp Company in Bellwood, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m. on June 14 an explosion and fire occurred in a mixing room at the facility, causing one fatality and five injuries. The incident occurred while workers were heating and mixing flammable solvents in an open tank. At the time of the incident there were approximately 11,000 pounds of a mixture of heptane and mineral spirits in the open-top tank. Heptane is a highly flammable and volatile liquid that is a component of gasoline.

During the heating process there was a sudden evolution of flammable vapors from the tank. The vapors ignited, causing an explosion and fire. Combustible chemicals stored nearby also caught fire and burned for two hours until the blaze was extinguished by local firefighters.

CSB investigators arrived at the facility on June 15 to assess the incident, interview witnesses and employees, and examine the site. According to eyewitness interviews, the injured workers were not in the mixing room, but in adjacent work areas. CSB interviews indicate that the fatally injured worker was a delivery driver who was not employed by Universal Form Clamp Company.

Universal Form Clamp Co. is a manufacturer and supplier of construction products and chemicals. The facility changed ownership about six weeks prior to the incident. The company has been cooperating fully with the investigation.

CSB Board Member John Bresland said, "The Board is concerned about the practice of mixing and heating flammable liquids in open tanks without appropriate safeguards. Our investigation will examine facility procedures as well as the adequacy of fire codes, standards, and local permitting and enforcement."


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