OSHA Extends the Comment Period for Confined Spaces Standard

January 28, 2008


The proposed rule addresses issues specific to the construction industry. It uses a step-by-step approach to confined space safety by explaining how to assess the hazards, classify the space, and implement effective procedures to protect employees. The rule also would require controlling contractors to coordinate confined space operations among a site's multiple employers.

Public comments must be submitted no later than Feb. 28, 2008, and may be sent by regular mail, express mail, hand delivery, messenger, or by courier service. Comments should be sent to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA -2007-0026, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20210.  Comments may be submitted via fax to 202-693-1648.

Massive Chemical Explosion at T2 Injures 33

 Among investigators' findings thus far is that that the number of people injured was more than double what was known immediately after the accident.

Investigators say that 33 people were injured in the massive explosion and fire at the Jacksonville, Fla., chemical plant on December 19. Many of these injuries resulted from flying and falling debris due to structural damage to off-site buildings. The team plans to return to Washington, D.C., later today to continue the investigation.

The explosion resulted in the death of four workers; preliminary findings indicate that the accident occurred as a result of a runaway chemical reaction during the production of a gasoline additive called methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MCMT or Ecotane®). The loss of control of the reaction probably occurred during the first step of the process, where more than half a ton of metallic sodium was reacted in a steel vessel with other raw materials, producing hydrogen gas as a byproduct. T2 is a small company with about a dozen employees and the single production site in Jacksonville.

The reactor eventually overpressured and ruptured at a pressure of several thousand pounds per square inch. The contents of the reactor immediately ignited, creating a fireball and mushroom cloud rising approximately 2,000 feet high.

"As a result of our interviews, the CSB has discovered that over 30 people were injured, versus the 14 reported the first few days following the accident," CSB Supervisory Investigator Robert Hall, P.E., said. “After conducting over 50 interviews, CSB investigators determined the significantly higher number of injuries. Initial media reports of 14 injuries did not count individuals who sought medical attention on their own. Most of the injuries occurred off-site when a powerful blast wave swept through surrounding businesses; only 9 people were at the T2 site when the accident occurred.

"We will conduct laboratory testing to quantify the amount of heat and pressure released by the reaction,” he continued. “Our goal is to discover what went wrong on December 19 and to prevent a similar accident from happening again."

OSHA Proposes $173,000 in Fines Against Roofing Contractor for Fall Hazards

A West Haven, Conn., roofing contractor's failure to supply fall protection for its employees at a Farmington, Conn., worksite has resulted in $173,000 in proposed fines from OSHA.

Quality Roofing Systems Inc. was cited for a total of 11 alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards at its 1690 New Britain Ave. worksite following an OSHA inspection begun July 17, 2007, after an agency inspector observed Quality Roofing employees exposed to falls of 8 to 20 feet, while working at or near the unprotected edges of flat and steep-pitched roofs.

OSHA standards mandate that fall protection be provided when employees work six feet or higher above the next lower level. As a result, OSHA issued Quality Roofing two willful citations, carrying $140,000 in proposed fines, for the lack of fall protection. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

"Falls are the number one killer in construction work, and employees working without fall protection are just one step away from death or disabling injury,” said C. William Freeman III, OSHA's area director in Hartford. "The sizable fines proposed in this case reflect the fact that this employer knew this basic, commonsense safeguard was required, yet elected not to provide it.”

Additional hazards found on the jobsite included lack of guardrails, stairways, and ladders; lack of head and foot protection; overhead hazards; an ungrounded electrical generator; no fire extinguisher; lack of fall protection for employees working in a hoisting area; and for employees using and storing equipment on the roof. These conditions resulted in nine serious citations with $33,000 in proposed fines. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"Connecticut employers and employees should remember that OSHA inspectors can and will stop activity at a worksite and open an inspection on the spot if they observe fall hazards,” said Freeman.

OSHA Proposes Nearly $43,000 in Fines Against Chemical Manufacturer Following Spill and Injury

OSHA has cited Hampford Research Inc., a Stratford, Conn., chemical products manufacturer, for 32 alleged serious and other-than-serious violations of safety and health standards at its 54 Veterans Blvd. plant. The company faces a total of $42,750 in proposed fines.

On Aug. 9, 2007, an employee suffered burns while attempting to clean up a chemical spill caused by a forklift that hit a barrel containing thionyl chloride.

"OSHA's inspection found that the plant's plan and procedures for responding to chemical spills were inadequate and incomplete, needlessly exposing responders to injury," said Robert Kowalski, OSHA's area director in Bridgeport. "We also identified other safety and health hazards associated with a chemical manufacturing environment. All of these conditions must be promptly, thoroughly, and effectively addressed and corrected to safeguard employees."

Regarding the spill and cleanup, OSHA found that the company did not conduct evaluations to determine cleanup hazards; assess the controls and protective equipment needed for responders and the capabilities of the responders; obtain appropriate information about the spilled chemical; establish and implement a decontamination procedure; or make proper respiratory protection available.

Additional hazards identified at the plant include deficiencies in respiratory protection, hazardous energy control, chemical process safety management, and hazard communication programs; tripping and fall hazards; not verifying employees' abilities to safely operate fork trucks; unsafe means for dispensing flammable liquid from a 55-gallon drum; unguarded moving machine parts; and failure to establish a regulated area and take air samples for employees working with methylene chloride.

These conditions resulted in the issuance of 26 serious citations with $41,750 in proposed fines. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The company also was issued six other-than-serious citations, with $1,000 in proposed fines, primarily for incomplete recording of occupational injuries and illnesses.

Concrete Products Manufacturer Faces $76,500 in OSHA Fines for Repeat and Serious Hazards

OSHA has cited Cranesville Block Co.'s Clark Division for 11 alleged serious and repeat violations of safety and health standards at its Syracuse, N.Y., concrete products manufacturing plant. The company faces a total of $76,500 in proposed fines following OSHA inspections prompted by an employee complaint.

"These citations address a cross-section of hazards associated with concrete products manufacturing, including some for which the company had been cited in the past," said Christopher Adams, OSHA's area director in Syracuse. "Left uncorrected, these conditions expose employees to the potential dangers of lacerations, crushing, amputation, suffocation, falls, hearing loss, and lung disease."

OSHA issued Cranesville Block eight serious citations, with $26,500 in proposed fines, for employee overexposure to silica; failure to provide required confined space, respiratory protection and hazard communication training to employees; lack of a hearing conservation program for employees exposed to high noise levels; missing railings on stairways; and failure to provide stop blocks for parked trucks.

Three repeat citations, carrying $50,000 in proposed fines, were issued for not establishing and implementing specific procedures for locking out machines' power sources to prevent their startup during maintenance; not performing medical evaluations and fit-testing for employees using respirators; and failure to identify confined spaces in which employees would work. OSHA had cited Cranesville Block for substantially similar hazards in 2004 and 2005 at company plants in Amsterdam and Albany, N.Y.

OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition and the citation has become final.

OSHA Proposes $192,000 in Fines Against Manufacturer for 29 Safety and Health Violations

Mantrose-Haeuser Co. Inc., an Attleboro, Mass., manufacturer of industrial and pharmaceutical food coatings, faces $192,000 in proposed fines from OSHA. The company was cited for a total of 29 alleged repeat, willful, and serious violations of safety and health standards at its 113 Olive St. plant following a July 17, 2007, incident in which an employee lost his hand when it became caught in an unguarded rotating valve of a dust collection hopper.

Because the plant was cited for a similar hazard in April 2005, this lack of machine guarding resulted in OSHA issuing the company a repeat citation with a proposed fine of $35,000. Two other repeat citations, carrying $25,000 in fines, were issued for unguarded work platforms and an emergency exit door that could not be opened. A repeat citation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for a substantially similar hazard and that citation has become final.

OSHA's inspection also found that the plant had not developed and implemented required procedures to shut down machines and lock out their power sources to prevent their unintended startup. This situation resulted in the issuance of one willful citation carrying a proposed fine of $70,000. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

Additionally, 25 serious citations, with $62,000 in fines, were issued for hazards involving blocked, obstructed, and unmarked emergency exit doors and routes; lack of lockout/tagout devices and training; trip and fall hazards; fire extinguishers not being readily available; deficiencies in respirator training and fitting; confined space hazards; a defective powered pallet jack; unlabeled containers of chemicals; unapproved containers for flammable liquid; and lack of written procedures, training, and other elements of the plant's process safety management program. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"The number of citations reflects the wide array of hazards found during our inspection as well as the employer's knowledge of the lockout hazard and the recurrence of conditions cited during an earlier OSHA inspection," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director in Braintree. "As demonstrated in this case, continued failure to adhere to safety and health standards exposes employees to serious injuries and potentially fatal fire, chemical, mechanical, fall, confined space, and machine guarding hazards."

OSHA Cites Fairburn, Ga., Utility Contractor for Two Repeat Safety Violations

OSHA has proposed $50,000 in penalties against Northern Pipeline Construction Co. for two repeat safety violations.

The violations occurred as the company was relocating gas main lines in Cumming, Ga., under contract to Atlanta Gas Light Resources as part of a Georgia Department of Transportation project.

OSHA inspectors found that the Fairburn, Ga., utility contractor was installing pipe through a trench that was 50 feet in length and 6 feet in depth without a means of employee egress and without having a protective system in place. OSHA cited the company in 2006 for similar violations that occurred while it was installing a tap in a trench that was 7 to 8 feet in depth. "No employee should be exposed to the danger of trench collapse."

Northern Pipeline Construction Co. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA or to contest the citations and the proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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