OSHA Cites BP $109,500 Following Fatal Texas City Accident

March 28, 2005

OSHA has issued citations to BP North America Inc., Houston, Texas, and proposed penalties totaling $109,500 for safety violations following the investigation of a double fatality last September in Texas City, Texas. 

BP North America employs about 10,000 workers world-wide, of which 1,500 work in Texas City. The company was cited for one alleged willful and seven alleged serious violations following an inspection by OSHA's Houston South area office that began Sept. 2 when the release of high-pressure, superheated water engulfed three employees, inflicting fatal burns on two of them and seriously injuring one other.

The alleged willful violation was issued for failing to relieve trapped or residual pressure within a pipe. Employees were working on removing a 12-inch check valve from a high pressure hot water line without relieving the pressure within the line, resulting in a flood of hot water and steam. Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

The alleged serious violations include failing to identify exit areas; failing to maintain mechanical equipment; failing to ensure that machinery is inoperable during repair and maintenance; and failing to provide personal protective equipment. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from the violation.

Excavation Hazards at Baton Rouge Worksite Bring OSHA Citations and Fines Totaling $76,750

A Hot Springs, Ark. construction company's alleged failure to protect employees from trenching and excavation hazards has resulted in proposed penalties of $76,750 from OSHA.

Heller Co. Inc., a water and sewer excavation contractor that employs approximately 50 workers was issued citations for alleged willful and serious safety violations following an OSHA inspection that began Feb.16 at the company's worksite on Lake Comite Drive in Baton Rouge. Employees were installing sewer piping when an existing gas line broke, exposing workers to a hazardous condition.

The inspection was conducted as part of OSHA's national emphasis program aimed at preventing trenching and excavation accidents.

The two alleged willful violations were issued for failing to protect employees from the hazards of a cave-in while installing sewer piping at the base of a 13-foot-deep trench and for failure to remove the spoil pile from the leading edge of the trench. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Four alleged serious violations were issued for failing to: support and protect a gas utility line; conduct pre-entry hazardous atmosphere monitoring for employee protection after a gas utility line broke in the trench; brace or support an existing adjacent structure destabilized by the trench; and scale away loose soil that could strike employees in the trench. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious injury could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA Pilot Beryllium Program

Jonathan L. Snare, OSHA Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor, released the following statement regarding the agency's pilot beryllium and medical monitoring program:

"OSHA's mission is to ensure the safety and health of all workers, including our own employees. In furtherance of that mission, we are announcing results of a pilot program to test compliance safety and health officers (CSHO) for sensitization to beryllium.

"As of March 15, 2005, 302 OSHA employees requested testing for beryllium sensitization; 271 of those tests have been completed, while 31 who initially expressed interest have yet to take steps to schedule their appointments. Ten employees, or 3.7 percent of those tested, have tested positive for sensitization to beryllium. A positive test shows a sensitization to beryllium, but it does not imply that one has, or will develop, chronic beryllium disease. The test results also don't tell us whether those who tested 'positive' developed that sensitization during their employment with OSHA.

"All tested personnel were informed of their individual results as soon as they were received. Individuals who tested 'positive' received in-depth counseling from OSHA's Office of Occupational Medicine regarding further medical evaluation and other issues such as workers' compensation rights and procedures. Also, the agency follows procedures established in the CSHO Medical Examination program on appropriate work accommodations.

"In early 2000, OSHA began investigating the need to supplement our CSHO Medical Examination Program with beryllium medical monitoring. Subsequently, work on a pilot beryllium medical monitoring program was begun and efforts were undertaken to develop the program. As part of this effort, OSHA conducted extensive education and outreach to our compliance officers. Upon completion of these preparations, the pilot program was implemented in April 2004.

"We will continue our longstanding policy to protect and monitor the health of our compliance staff. The pilot program will continue for any additional employees who would like to take advantage of the testing."

OSHA Fines Mendon, N.Y. Contractor $116,000 for Cave-In Hazards

Failure to supply cave-in protection for workers at two Rochester-area sewer installation sites has resulted in a Mendon contractor being fined $116,000 by OSHA.

Victor Excavating Inc. was cited for a total of eight alleged willful and serious safety violations after OSHA inspectors found employees working in unprotected nine to ten-foot deep excavations at jobsites on Ambassador Drive in Rochester and Linden Avenue in Brighton. Each excavation also lacked a ladder or other safe means of exit. The inspections took place on Sept. 17 and Oct. 22, 2004.

"The walls of an excavation can collapse suddenly and with great force, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape," said Art Dube, OSHA's area director for western New York. "OSHA standards clearly mandate that excavations five feet or deeper must be safeguarded against cave-ins. This employer knew such life-saving protection was required for the workers, yet repeatedly refused to provide it."

As a result, Victor Excavating was issued three willful citations and fined $105,000 for lack of cave-in protection at both excavations and for failing to provide a ladder or other safe means of exit from the Brighton excavation. 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.

The company also received five serious citations with an additional fine of $11,000 for storing excavated material too close to the edge of the Brighton excavation; not providing a safe means of exit from the Rochester trench; failing to ensure employees wore head protection and were trained to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions; and not instituting and maintaining an accident prevention program. A serious violation is a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

Victor Excavating has 15 business days from receipt of the citations 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. The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Buffalo area office, 5360 Genesee St., Bowmansville, NY, telephone (716) 684-3891.