Pandemic Flu Guidelines Issued

July 24, 2006


The National Governors Association has released guidelines for preparing for and responding to pandemic avian flu. recommended procedures applicable to both businesses and government:

  • Key steps in planning for pandemic flu
  • Developing an effective pandemic plan
  • Likely economic impacts
  • Training and exercises
  • Medical response
  • Movement and travel restrictions

CSB Issues Case Study of Formosa Plastics Fire and Explosion

. In addition, the CSB released a safety video which includes a computer animation depicting events leading to the accident.

The Point Comfort complex, on the Texas Gulf Coast, is the largest Formosa facility in the U.S., employing 1,400 full-time workers and 400 contactors. The accident occurred in the plant's Olefins II Unit, which converts either natural gas liquids or naphtha into products such as propylene and ethylene. The accident began when a vehicle—a forklift towing a trailer loaded with cylinders of breathing air used in maintenance—snagged a valve, pulling it out of the system. This caused the release of a substantial volume of propylene which then ignited, creating a large fire. The initial explosion knocked several operators to the ground and burned two men, one seriously. Fourteen workers sustained minor injuries evacuating the complex.

The CSB case study concludes that had the Olefins II unit been equipped with automated shutdown valves, it might have been possible to stop the propylene flow, limiting the size of the fire. Operators were unable to reach manual valves to stop the release due to the presence of the growing vapor cloud.

The investigation noted that the valve hit by the trailer was unguarded and vulnerable to being hit by vehicles. The case study also noted that some steel supports were not fireproof, and collapsed. This caused the failure of pipes designed to carry flammable hydrocarbons to the unit's flare system, where they could be safely burned in the atmosphere. Without this safety system in place, pressurized flammable gases continued to feed the fire, which burned for five days. In addition, the CSB found that employees were not required to wear flame-resistant clothing when working within the Olefins II unit, where there were large quantities of flammable liquids and gases.

CSB Board Member John Bresland said, "This began with a seemingly minor event, in which a trailer bumped into a drain valve. But the incident had disastrous consequences because the facility was not better prepared for a large chemical release. The fires and explosions at Formosa's Point Comfort plant provide compelling reasons to analyze vulnerabilities that could lead to a major chemical accident."

CSB lead investigator Robert Hall said, "Our investigation focused on how this facility was designed to protect against major fire hazards. We found that the unit's design engineering firm used plans that had not been updated to incorporate the latest standards for fireproofing steel structures. Furthermore, workers were not wearing flame-resistant clothing, which would have helped to protect them against the flash fire that occurred. We found that improved design practices and protective clothing could have reduced the impact of this accident."

The board issued several formal safety recommendations. Formosa’s Point Comfort plant was urged to revise its policies and procedures for analyzing hazards, to include vehicle impact dangers, fireproofing of structural steel and mechanisms for controlling chemical releases such as remotely controlled isolation valves. The Board also recommended that Formosa provide fire-resistant clothing to workers exposed to the dangers of flash fires.

The board recommended that Kellogg, Brown, and Root, the company that designed Formosa's facility, use the most current safety standards—including standards for fireproofing—when designing new facilities. And the Center for Chemical Process Safety, a leading safety organization, was urged to strengthen its hazard evaluation guidelines to include vehicle impact hazards and isolation of equipment during emergencies.

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 safety management systems, regulations, and industry standards.

OSHA Alliance Aims to Enhance Safety and Health for Young Workers in New York's Jefferson and Lewis Counties

Educating young workers in Jefferson and Lewis counties (N.Y.) about occupational safety and health is the goal of a new alliance between OSHA’s Syracuse office and the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).

Under the alliance, OSHA and BOCES are working jointly to provide BOCES students with training and education programs designed to reduce and prevent young workers' exposure to safety and health hazards. This includes presenting OSHA's 10-hour construction- and general-industry programs to senior and junior high-school students enrolled in various vocational studies programs, including automotive technology and repair and construction. The alliance formalizes a program that has already provided training to more than 400 students.

"This is an excellent opportunity to provide tomorrow's workers with vital knowledge that will serve them well in the work force," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator.

"These courses will equip students with the awareness and skills to identify and address on-the-job hazards before they cause injury or illness," added Chris R. Adams, OSHA's Syracuse-area director.

Alliance participants will also share best practices and effective approaches regarding workplace safety and health. Participation by BOCES students in OSHA's cooperative programs will be promoted, and students will be encouraged to build relationships with OSHA officials on safety and health issues. The alliance was signed by Clark, Adams and Jack J. Boak, BOCES district superintendent.

OSHA health and safety alliances are part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s ongoing efforts to improve the health and safety of workers through cooperative partnerships. OSHA has created more than 325 alliances with organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace. Additional information about this and other alliances in the area can be obtained by calling OSHA's Syracuse area office at (315) 451-0808.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.

OSHA Fines Contractor $68,200 Following Trench Collapse

A Hamden, Conn., contractor faces $88,200 in OSHA fines following a trench cave-in in North Haven, Conn., that partially buried an employee. J.T. Furrey Inc. was cited for a total of six alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards.

On Feb. 1, a section of a 6-foot-deep sewer-excavation trench collapsed. The employee working in the trench was pinned at his midsection and also struck by a falling section of pavement. OSHA's inspection found that the trench lacked cave-in protection and a safe means of exit, while piles of excavated spoils were placed less than 2 feet from the trench's edge. Additionally, weakened pavement surrounding the trench was not removed or supported to protect employees.

As a result of these conditions, J.T. Furrey Inc. was issued citations for four willful violations, carrying $84,000 in proposed fines. 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.

"This accident is a graphic example of what can and does happen when required cave-in protection is not supplied," said Robert Kowalski, OSHA's area director for southwestern Conn. "A trench's sidewalls can collapse swiftly and with great force, trapping and crushing workers before they have a chance to escape. It's sheer luck that no fatality occurred in this case, but safety cannot, and should never be, a matter of chance."

The company was also cited for two serious violations and fined an additional $4,200 for not instructing employees to recognize and avoid trenching hazards and for not protecting and supporting underground gas lines against damage. A serious violation is one in which death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. 

OSHA Fines Lansdale Company $213,700 for Repeat Violations

OSHA has cited Crystal Inc.-PMC for alleged safety and health violations, proposing $213,700 in penalties. The Lansdale, Pa., company manufactures specialty chemicals and employs 51 people.

OSHA initiated its investigation in January in response to an employee complaint. According to Jean Kulp, area director of OSHA’s Allentown, Pa., office, the company was cited for seven repeat violations, which carry a penalty of $112,700; 34 serious violations, which carry a penalty of $98,000; and three other-than-serious violations, which carry a penalty of $3,000.

"Crystal Inc.'s refusal to correct previously identified violations jeopardizes its ability to maintain a safe and healthy work environment," said Kulp. "It is imperative that the company abate the hazards to protect workers at the plant."

The repeat violations address hazards associated with the following: poor housekeeping, walking and working surfaces, inadequate fall protection, deficiencies in confined-space procedures, blocked eyewash stations and electrical deficiencies. The serious violations include hazards associated with the following: combustible organic dust, storage of incompatible chemicals, respiratory protection, powered industrial trucks, hazard communication deficiencies, handling of formaldehyde, lockout/tagout (prevents the inadvertent start-up of machinery), material storage, and welding equipment and live electrical parts. The other-than-serious violations are due to record-keeping deficiencies, overexposure to particulates and various electrical deficiencies.

A repeat violation is one in which the employer has been cited during the past three years for substantially similar violations. A serious violation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious injury could occur from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA Cites Demolition Contractor following Fatal Building Collapse

OSHA cited Associated Building Wreckers Inc., Springfield, Mass. for alleged willful and serious safety violations following a Jan. 19 building collapse in Holyoke that killed one worker and seriously injured another. The demolition contractor was also cited for hazards at a Chicopee job site.

In Holyoke, four employees of Associated Building Wreckers were performing demolition operations on the fourth floor of a building in disrepair, when the roof, fourth floor and part of the third floor collapsed. OSHA officials found that the company had not adequately shored or braced portions of the damaged building in which the employees were working, and that the employees did not have fall protection when they were working on the roof. Two citations for willful violations, carrying $84,000 in proposed fines, were issued for these conditions.

Ten serious violations with $30,900 in fines were cited because the company failed to do the following: conduct a pre-demolition engineering survey to determine the building's condition and the possibility of its collapse, properly erect shoring towers, determine the strength and stability of working surfaces, leave a leaning wall in a stable condition, instruct workers in the recognition of unsafe conditions, provide fall protection for an employee tethered to an aerial lift while on the roof; supply guardrails, protect against falling debris and have a fire-protection program.

"Employers specializing in demolition work are well aware of its inherent dangers," said Mary E. Hoye, OSHA's area director for western Massachusetts. "This case exemplifies the high cost paid by workers when basic precautions and safeguards are ignored."

Associated Building Wreckers Inc. was also cited for hazards at a work site on Center Street in Chicopee. In that case, the company was issued a willful citation with a $42,000 penalty for fall hazards from six unguarded skylight openings. The company also received three serious citations with proposed fines of $7,500 for missing warning lines, material dropped into unprotected areas and no curbs to prevent equipment from rolling into skylight openings.

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. A serious violation is one in which when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA Cites Georgia Carpet Manufacturer $126,450 Following Fatal Workplace Accident

OSHA cited Oriental Weavers of America following a fatal accident at the company's Dalton, Ga., manufacturing plant. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $126,450.

"This tragic accident could have been prevented if the company had followed required safety procedures," said Andre C. Richards, OSHA's Atlanta-West area director. "Our investigation also found significant noise hazards at the plant."

OSHA's fatality inspection began Jan. 20 after an employee was pulled by her clothing into a twisting machine and caught by a rotating shaft. While conducting the safety inspection, OSHA also determined that there were potential noise hazards and initiated a health inspection.

The agency alleged 31 serious safety violations with proposed penalties of $81,900 for hazards associated with machine guarding, equipment restarting, walking and working surfaces, fall hazards, and fixed stairways.

Oriental Weavers of America was also cited for 11 alleged health violations with proposed penalties of $44,550 for hazards including high noise levels, inadequate personal protective equipment, confined space entry, lack of eyewash and safety showers, and improper hazard communication procedures.

OSHA Renews Alliance with Manufacturers Association of Central New York

OSHA has renewed its alliance with the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY) to help enhance safety and health in central New York's manufacturing industries.

Originally announced in May 2004, a fundamental goal of the alliance has been to help manufacturers, particularly smaller ones, develop and implement their own safety and health management systems. Under the alliance, large manufacturing businesses with in-house safety departments and safety and health managers have partnered with and mentored smaller businesses that could not otherwise afford the same level of safety and health resources.

"This is a successful, cooperative effort to help develop world-class safety and health programs in manufacturing facilities in central New York," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator.

"Through this alliance, we aim to reduce occupational injuries and illnesses and their resulting human and financial costs," added Chris R. Adams, OSHA's Syracuse, N.Y., area director.

Under the alliance, OSHA and MACNY have also presented one-day seminars on record keeping, emergency action planning and other safety and health issues. They also encouraged MACNY members' participation in OSHA's cooperative programs, including the Voluntary Protection Program, safety consultation and the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.

OSHA has created more than 325 alliances with organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace. Additional information about this and other alliances in the area can be obtained by calling OSHA's Syracuse area office at (315) 451-0808.

OSHA Launches Newsletter for Hispanic Workers and Their Employers

Hispanic workers and their employers in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a new occupational safety and health resource—a Spanish-language electronic newsletter from Region 2 of OSHA.

"Cpsulas de Salud y Seguridad" presents a cross-section of information on workplace safety and health issues, particularly those affecting Hispanic workers. Each issue will feature topics designed to educate and guide readers in their effort to reduce hazards and improve safety and health in their workplaces.

"This electronic newsletter is the first of its kind for OSHA," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator. "Our goal is to present important and useful safety and health information in a clear, readable and easily accessible format."

"We want to inform our readers and encourage them to take positive steps to ensure safe and healthful workplaces," said Jose A. Carpena, newsletter editor and OSHA's area director in Puerto Rico.

"Knowledge is the one tool workers and employers need to understand, to identify and to eliminate occupational hazards before they hurt workers," said Diana Cortez, OSHA's regional Hispanic coordinator.

Topics in the first issue include an overview of OSHA's role, responsibilities and services; health hazards posed by exposure to silica dust; a Spanish/English dictionary of OSHA terms; OSHA's Spanish-language construction e-tools; OSHA's alliance program; public-service announcements by Orlando Cepeda and Rey Mysterio; and a list of outreach and training programs and activities in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Although targeted to readers in region two, "Cpsulas de Salud y Seguridad" is available to all. 

OSHA Administrator Unveils Voluntary Protection Program for Mobile Workforce in Construction

A nationwide Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) initiative aimed at meeting the unique needs and characteristics of the construction industry—Mobile Workforce VPP Demonstration for Construction—was unveiled by OSHA Administrator Ed Foulke at the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) Safety and Health Committee mid-year meeting in Denver.

"VPP is a good tool for increasing safety and health awareness within the industry," Foulke told attendees when announcing the program. "It is important for OSHA to recognize those construction companies that should be held up as models of safety and health for the rest of the industry."

"This initiative aims to provide the mobile construction workforce and short term projects with the same opportunity for recognition that fixed site employers receive," said Foulke. "We believe our proposal has the potential to significantly contribute to reductions in injuries, illnesses and fatalities in one of the nation's most hazardous industries."

The new demonstration is based on the agency's VPP experience as well as successes garnered through the construction-related Mobile Workforce and Short-Term Construction Star Demonstration programs. The core of the initiative continues to rest on the principle of effective safety and health management systems. However, it is different from traditional VPP programs in that it adds new procedures and requirements that recognize the unique aspects of the construction industry. For example, the program allows for participation at the company, division, or business unit levels.

VPP is OSHA’s premier cooperative program, with about 1,400 workplaces currently participating. VPP worksites save millions each year because their injury and illness rates are more than 50 percent below the averages for their industries. In the VPP, management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented comprehensive safety and health management systems. Acceptance into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health programs.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure the safety and health of America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.

Basic Steel Products Focus of New Safety and Health Topics Page

It contains links to OSHA workplace standards for the manufacturing of steel products. A number of additional resources are available, including safety tips on avoiding industrial hazards, and information on safety and health case studies.

OSHA Posters and Publications: Free for the Asking

OSHA Fines Two Roofing Companies Total of $95,000

Two Arizona roofing companies have been fined for exposing workers to fall hazards, the top cause of workplace fatalities in the construction industry.

Capital Construction LLC and Progressive Roofing were fined $80,000 and $15,000, respectively, by the Industrial Commission of Arizona at the agency’s June 22 meeting.

Capital was cited for a dozen safety rule violations for scaffolding, training and housekeeping during a January inspection, and was previously cited for similar violations after a November inspection, according to the company’s file at the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Capital manager Steve Macholtz said that the company is contesting all of the citations and fines and that the problems noted by inspectors have been corrected.

After the first inspection, the state commission approved a $6,075 fine against the company, which hasn’t been paid, according to Mark Norton, assistant director of the safety division. In February, the company sent a letter and some photos to show it had abated the hazards, but some of them “hadn’t been fixed at all” when inspectors followed up, he said.

The company was roofing townhouses at a construction site during both inspections, according to the report.

In both instances, complaints to the state safety office led to the inspections. Complaints about fall hazards are given higher priority than other complaints because of OSHA’s national and local emphasis on eliminating fall hazards, Norton said.

“We are looking at fall hazards as an extremely serious issue,” he said, because falls can be fatal. About 440 workers took fatal falls at construction sites in 2004, according to OSHA.

The inspection of Progressive Roofing was brought by an accident from which a 25-year-old worker was hospitalized.

The worker was roofing a hangar at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 21 when he kicked a board that was covering an opening for a skylight and fell 30 feet through the hole. He had to be treated for head injuries and fractures in his wrist and femur.

National Petrochemical & Refiners Association Publishes 2006 Illness and Injury Report

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) recently published its annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (I&I) report. In 2005, 41 member facilities worked a full year without a recordable incident, up from 37 facilities in 2004. Data for the I&I report are submitted by NPRA members according to OSHA regulations. The report contains data for the calendar year 2005.

“Protecting the health and safety of employees and communities and safeguarding the environment are fundamental values of NPRA members,” said NPRA president Bob Slaughter.

“Our members share a strong commitment to operating with greater safety, reliability, efficiency and environmental responsibility. They strive each day to implement continuing improvements—in preventing spills, reducing emissions, training for emergencies and by developing ever safer products and processes.” Slaughter continued. “The ultimate goal of all NPRA member companies is to achieve a record of no recordable incidents at any facilities.”

The I&I report gives NPRA member companies a benchmark against which to compare their facility’s safety programs with other safety programs in the industry. The focus is on promoting continuous improvement in safety practices. The report also shows national trends in the injury and illness rates of the petroleum refining and petrochemical industries. The data compiled by NPRA reflect data kept in accordance with OSHA recordkeeping requirements and entered on the OSHA 300A form, which includes the total recordable incidence rate (TRIR); days away, restricted, or transferred (DART) rate; day count rate; and fatality and days away from work (DAW) case rate. Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the NPRA I&I report has recorded a steady decline in injuries and illnesses at NPRA member facilities.

A total of 259 NPRA facilities participated in the 2005 I&I report: 122 refineries and 137 petrochemical plants. Participation in the program is up from 246 facilities—119 refineries and 127 petrochemical plants—in 2004. During 2005, 122 member facilities worked a full year or more without a lost workday case involving days away from work. The 2005 recordable injury and illness rate for operating companies in the refining sector was 1.05 cases per 100 full-time employees and 0.9 for the petrochemical sector. In contrast, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in calendar year 2004—the latest year from which data is available from BLS—that the average recordable injury and illness rate for private industry was 4.8 cases per 100 full-time employees.

The NPRA I&I Report is available to all member companies free of charge. Media can obtain copies of the summary report free of charge upon request by contacting Nicole Friedman at 202.457.0480. To obtain additional information on the NPRA I&I Report and Safety Award program, contact Lara Swett at 202-457-0480.

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