John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, announced details about the formation of the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics. This committee is part of OSHA's comprehensive approach to reducing ergonomic-related injuries and illnesses in the workplace.
"Our four-pronged approach for continuing and accelerating the reduction of ergonomic-related injuries and illnesses in the workplace -- guidelines, research, outreach and assistance, and enforcement -- will benefit from the experience and expertise of the members of this committee," said Henshaw. "I expect the committee to be a valuable resource in helping OSHA accelerate the decline of these types of injuries."
The committee will advise on a number of issues involving information on various industry or task-specific guidelines; identification of gaps in the existing research on ergonomics and the application of ergonomic principles to the workplace; current and projected research needs and efforts; methods of providing outreach and assistance that will communicate the value of ergonomics to employers and employees; and ways to increase communication among stakeholders on the issue of ergonomics.
"Helping identify gaps in existing research is an important part of the work of this committee," continued Henshaw. "We look forward to working with the research community, including other government agencies such as NIOSH, in filling those gaps and constructing a more complete body of research with which we can all work.
"Working with OSHA and our other partners, NIOSH will continue its commitment to bringing sound science to this process," said NIOSH Acting Director Kathleen M. Rest, Ph.D., M.P.A. NIOSH is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Committee will consist of 15 members, who will be selected for their expertise and/or experience with ergonomic issues. OSHA will accept nominations from interested parties for membership on the committee. The Committee will report to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. The details of the nomination procedure are contained in a notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday, May 2, 2002.
- May 26, 2002 - Employers subject to process safety management standards must update and revalidate the hazard analysis of their process conducted pursuant to 29 CFR 1910.119(e)(1)
FATAL CRUSHING ACCIDENT COULD COST COMPANY $43,000 IN OSHA FINES
Failure to protect workers from crushing accidents may cost Huntsville, Ala.-based Southeastern Mobile Crushing, Inc. $43,050. The fine follows an inspection of a fatal accident at a Decatur, Ala., asphalt plant.
On Jan. 4, a crew employed by the construction material recycling company was setting up equipment at the Decatur plant in preparation for a recycling operation. In connection with the set-up, a trackhoe machine and makeshift sling were used to raise a conveyor that was stuck in the transport position. While employees were under the machine trying to beat it loose, the chain sling broke. The falling conveyor crushed one employee.
"A major cause of worker deaths is being struck by an object, and approximately 75 percent of these kinds of fatalities involve heavy equipment," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's Birmingham area director. "With proper training and procedures, this crushing accident could have been avoided."
Following an inspection of the fatality, OSHA cited Southeastern Mobile Crushing, Inc. for 13 serious violations of safety standards. The citations, which drew a total of $43,050 in fines, include using unapproved pins to support the crusher which can lead to crushing accidents; using front-end loaders to lift and transport personnel; lack of proper railing to prevent fall hazards; no head protection; no lockout-tagout program to render machinery inoperable during maintenance and repair; damaged lifting/rigging equipment which had not been properly certified or inspected; electrical hazards due to defective welding equipment; lack of machine guarding, and lack of a hazard communication program.
Southeastern Mobile Crushing, Inc. has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
FATAL EXPLOSION AND FIRE LEAD TO OVER $71,000 IN PROPOSED FINES
The death of a welder in a Worcester, Mass., explosion and fire has led to $71,250 in proposed fines against his employer for failing to protect workers against the hazards of flammable vapors during cutting and welding operations.
OSHA cited TS Truck Service, Inc., a commercial fuel delivery firm, for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following the Dec. 17 fatality. On that day, an employee who was welding atop a delivery truck's fuel tank died after flammable vapors inside the tank ignited, causing an explosion and fire that engulfed him.
OSHA's inspection found that the company allowed the welding to proceed without first ensuring that the tank and its piping had been cleaned thoroughly enough to eliminate any flammable materials or substances which could produce flammable vapors, according to Ronald E. Morin, OSHA area director for central Massachusetts.
"This is a critical safety precaution that was not followed even though it was required and the employer was well aware of it," said Morin. "As a result, we are citing this item as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation, and proposing a $49,000 fine."
An additional $22,250 in fines is proposed for seven alleged serious violations, including: failure to have an authorized person inspect the work area for fire hazards before welding; failing to properly cover or locate flammable and combustible materials at least 35 feet from welding operations; not having suitable fire extinguishing equipment present and immediately available for use during welding; failure to suitably train workers; electrical outlets, lighting and fans that were not approved for a hazardous location; no fall protection for an employee working atop a 10-foot, 6-inch high truck tank; and inadequate training for forklift operators.
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. A serious violation is one where there is a substantial probability that death or serious harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
TS Truck Service, Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
NFPA RELEASES INVESTIGATIVE REPORT FROM PHOENIX WAREHOUSE FIRE
The fire investigations unit for the nonprofit NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) released findings from the August 2000 fire that destroyed a multi-tenanted warehouse building in Phoenix. Factors that may have contributed to the fire include lack of segregation between oxidizers and other incompatible materials, lack of proper storage configuration for oxidizers, and inadequate sprinkler protection. Property damage from the fire is estimated at more than $100 million.
The fire began in the building's home and garden supply area, which stored a dangerous combination of oxidizers, such as pool chemicals, as well as fertilizers and pesticides. At approximately 5 p.m., less than one hour after workers left for the day, smoke was spotted coming from the home and garden portion of the warehouse. At the same time, employees from the pharmaceutical distribution operation, who also occupied the building, heard banging noises from that area.
The Phoenix Fire Department arrived at the scene within minutes after the fire was reported. Portions of the outer walls of the building were collapsing and the fire was spreading rapidly. Fire department units extinguished the four-alarm fire by the next morning. Five firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. More than 80 civilians from surrounding neighborhoods were evacuated from their homes, but were allowed to return the next day.
According to NFPA's report, the Phoenix warehouse fire represents one in a series of incidents over the past few years involving improper storage of chemicals. Each resulted in serious or total property damage and, in some cases, multiple firefighter fatalities. "While each of the warehouse or bulk retail fires we've investigated involved a unique set of circumstances, inadequate storage of oxidizers and other chemicals has been the common theme among them all," said Robert Duval, senior fire investigator for NFPA.
Duval emphasized the importance of properly handling and storing oxidizers to maintain building and occupant safety. "When contaminated, oxidizers can give off a tremendous amount of heat and smoke. Gross contamination of these materials can cause exothermic or explosive reactions," he said. "That's why proper storage and configuration of these chemicals is key." He also noted that these types of fires pose unique hazards for firefighters.
Investigation into the cause of the Phoenix warehouse fire continues as of release of the report.
CHEMICAL SAFETY BOARD LAUNCHES NEW INVESTIGATION
On Wednesday, May 1, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board initiated a new investigation into a chemical plant fire at Third Coast Packaging Company in Friendswood, Texas, a rural area about 20 miles southeast of Houston. Third Coast Packaging manufactures automotive and industrial lubricants and packaging.
According to initial reports, the fire stated about 1 AM, Wednesday, in a storage warehouse. Two warehouses have apparently been destroyed and at least 15 storage tanks were fully engulfed in flames.
The fire generated a cloud of thick, black smoke that required the evacuation of about 100 people in a one-mile radius of the plant.
The Board has sent a team of investigators to the site, including Board member Irv Rosenthal, to begin the investigation.
Meanwhile, the Board is continuing its investigation into the explosion and fire at the Kaltech Company facility in the Chelsea section of New York City. The Board has analyzed the scene of the accident and will request documents from the company needed to help determine the root and contributing causes of the incident, which occurred on April 25, 2002 injuring a dozen people and hospitalizing two workers in critical condition.
CSB ANNOUNCES REACTIVE CHEMICAL HAZARDS PUBLIC HEARING
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is nearing completion of its investigation into incidents involving reactive hazards. A public hearing will be held on Thursday, May 30, 2002, at 9:00 am, in Paterson, New Jersey, at the City Hall, 155 Market Street. CSB staff will present findings and preliminary conclusions from this investigation to the Board. In addition, there will be several panels representing industry/trade associations, unions, government, and environmental groups that will also address the Board. Following completion of the panels, there will be an opportunity for public comment.
CSB analyzed 167 serious incidents in the United States involving uncontrolled chemical reactivity from 1980 to June 2001. Seventy percent of these incidents occurred in the chemical manufacturing industry.
The public hearing will focus on the following issues:
- Is there a need to improve coverage of potentially catastrophic reactive hazards under the OSHA PSM standard?
- For processes already covered under the OSHA PSM standard, do its safety management requirements adequately address reactive hazards?
- Does the EPA RMP regulation provide sufficient coverage to protect the public and the environment from the hazards of reactive chemicals?
- What nonregulatory actions should OSHA and EPA take to reduce the number and severity of reactive chemical incidents?
- CSB also solicits comments on the following related subjects: (i) suggested improvements to industry guidance or initiatives (e.g. Responsible Care«, Responsible Distribution ProcessSM, etc.) to reduce the number and severity of reactive incidents; (ii) suggested improvements for the sharing of reactive chemical test data, incident data, and lessons learned; (iii) other non-regulatory initiatives that would help prevent reactive incidents.
Submit written comments to Mr. John Murphy by postal mail (at CSB, 2175 K Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20037) or by e-mail . Pre-registration by May 22 is required for verbal comments; send your name and a brief outline of comments.
Please notify CSB if a translator or interpreter is needed, 10 business days prior to the public meeting.
CSB will post a detailed agenda for the hearing prior to May 22.
THOUSANDS OF COAL MINERS ELIGIBLE FOR FREE CHEST X-RAYS
Thousands more active U.S. coal miners are now eligible for free, confidential chest X-rays to detect work-related lung diseases, under a program initiated by the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
The "Miners' Choice Health Screening," has offered free, confidential chest X-rays to selected coal miners nationwide in an attempt to determine the depth and scope of black lung disease among U.S. coal miners.
"We encourage all eligible miners to take part in this program," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The statistics being gathered will help to gauge progress and plan the next steps in preventing black lung."
Under the program approximately 6,700 miners are now eligible for the free chest X-rays. MSHA will inform all miners who are eligible, and miners may get the tests from a mobile X-ray van that will visit near their work site. The X-rays go to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which coordinates readings and will notify each tested miner of individual findings.
Nearly 18,000 miners nationwide have taken advantage of the free chest X-rays since the program began in 1999.
The X-rays will be available through September 30, 2002. Retired miners or non-working miners are not eligible. MSHA initiated the current X-ray program in response to recommendations by a federal advisory committee.