May 31, 2022
Cal/OSHA reminds all employers with outdoor workers to be prepared and take the necessary precautions to prevent heat illness, as high temperatures are expected throughout the state this week. Employers in California must take steps to protect outdoor workers from heat illness by providing water, rest, shade and training.
“As we shift towards summer, employers need to ensure they have updated their written heat plans and provided effective training to all of their employees who work outdoors,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Jeff Killip. “For those who want help, Cal/OSHA is ready and available to provide consultation and outreach.”
Cal/OSHA’s heat illness prevention standard
applies to all outdoor worksites. To prevent heat illness, the law requires employers to provide outdoor workers fresh water, access to shade at 80 degrees and whenever requested by a worker, cool-down rest breaks in addition to regular breaks and maintain a written prevention plan with training on the signs of heat illness and what to do in case of an emergency.
- Plan – Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
- Training – Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
- Water – Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge so that each worker can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so.
- Rest – Encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating. Workers should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.
- Shade – Provide proper shade when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Workers have the right to request and be provided shade to cool off at any time.
Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention special emphasis program includes enforcement of the heat regulation as well as multilingual outreach and training programs for California’s employers and workers. Details on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials are available online on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page
and the 99calor.org
informational website. A Heat Illness Prevention online tool
is also available on Cal/OSHA’s website.
MassDEP Penalizes ApMar USA, Inc. for Hazardous Waste Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has issued a $10,700 penalty to ApMar USA, Inc., a metal plating facility located in the City of Springfield, for violations of state wastewater, hazardous waste
and Toxics Use regulations. The violations include failure to maintain or provide records of test results, waste analysis, or other waste determinations for the wastewater treatment sludge waste.
Other violations were related to hazardous waste
, waste oil
and universal waste
, including the accumulation of hazardous waste
more than the 180-day accumulation period for a Small Quantity Generator. In addition, the company failed to submit a Toxics Use Report and prepare and complete a toxics use reduction plan.
“ApMar has agreed to develop an Environmental Management System for this facility, which should help them stay on top of their environmental obligations in the future,” said Michael Gorski, Director of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office in Springfield.
ApMar USA will pay $4,000 of the assessed penalty, the remaining amount suspended, pending full compliance with the order and development of the Environmental Management System. An Environmental Management System is a methodical approach to incorporate environmental considerations into a company’s daily operations and management principles and includes worker training.
Violation of Coal Combustion Residual Regulations Leads to Heavy Fine
The EPA recently announced a first-of-its-kind settlement under the Agency’s Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) program at the Public Service Company of Colorado’s (“PSCo’s”) Comanche power station in Pueblo, Colorado. The settlement commits PSCo to address groundwater contamination issues and to ensure the proper closure of CCR surface impoundments under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Under the agreement, PSCo agrees to return to compliance with the CCR program and to pay a civil penalty of $925,000.
Produced primarily from the burning of coal in coal-fired power plants, CCR is a large industrial waste stream by volume and can contain harmful levels of contaminants like mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. Without proper management, contaminants from CCR can pollute waterways, groundwater, drinking water, and the air.
“EPA is committed to enforcing the law against facilities that mismanage coal ash,” said EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Enforcement Larry Starfield. “In particular, we are committed to holding coal ash
facilities accountable for operating and closing their facilities in a manner that protects public health and the environment.”
“Today’s settlement will protect the Pueblo community and surrounding environment by ensuring the safe disposal and management of coal ash at the Comanche power plant,” said Suzanne Bohan, EPA Region 8’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division Director. “We will continue to work with our state partners to hold owners and operators of CCR facilities accountable, restore the environment where damage has occurred, and protect communities, like Pueblo, that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution.”
The administrative settlement was approved by the Regional Judicial Officer for EPA Region 8 on May 20, 2022. In the agreement EPA alleges that PSCo did not meet certain requirements under the CCR program, including failure to:
- Monitor groundwater under the facility and prepare corrective action reports;
- Conduct statistical analysis of groundwater data and establish groundwater background contaminant concentrations;
- Cease using a CCR surface impoundment after the “cease receipt” date; and
- Provide access to documents that were required to be posted on a publicly-accessible website.
The settlement requires PSCo to design a groundwater monitoring system that meets CCR program requirements. PSCo will also develop a corrective measures plan, a remedy implementation plan, and a closure plan for the impoundment. The EPA will oversee all work, including planning for closure of the CCR landfill at the facility. PSCo is required to comply with all other requirements of the CCR program including timely posting of updated and accurate information about compliance on the Xcel Energy® website at https://www.xcelenergy.com/coal_ash_managementExit Exit EPA website
. EPA will continue to coordinate its activities with the State of Colorado during implementation of the settlement.
To address the risks from improper disposal and discharge of coal ash — leaking of contaminants into ground water, blowing of contaminants into the air as dust, and the catastrophic failure of coal ash surface impoundments — EPA established national rules for coal ash management and disposal. In April 2015, EPA promulgated a comprehensive set of requirements for the safe handling and disposal of coal ash from coal-fired power plants which established technical requirements for CCR landfills and surface impoundments under subtitle D of RCRA. EPA is increasing its efforts and working with its state partners to investigate compliance concerns at coal ash facilities in Colorado and around the nation to ensure compliance and protect the health of communities overburdened by pollution such as coal ash residuals.
Forklift Fatally Strikes Worker in Alabama
A federal workplace safety investigation found an employer’s failure to follow federal safety standards contributed to a 45-year-old worker suffering fatal injuries after a forklift struck her as she walked across an Athens lumber shipping yard on Nov. 15, 2021.
Investigators with OSHA cited Sunbelt Forest Products, LLC — operating as Sunbelt Forest Products Corp. — for exposing workers to struck-by hazards by allowing employees to walk where forklift drivers could not see them, and for failing to distinguish and mark shipping department travel aisles for trucks, forklifts and pedestrians.
The company also failed to require forklift drivers to keep a clear view of the driving path and did not remove damaged forklifts from service. OSHA has proposed $53,866 in penalties
“A forklift typically weighs between 4,000 to 9,000 pounds and poses significant risk of severe injury or death to workers who may be struck-by this equipment. Employers must take precautions in workplaces that use powered industrial vehicles to prevent devastating incidents and the loss of someone’s life,” said OSHA Area Office Director Ramona Morris in Birmingham, Alabama.
Sunbelt Forest Products, LLC is an Athens-based manufacturer of treated lumber.
Failure to Use Machine Safety Procedures Leads to Worker Fatality
As a production manager attempted to clear plastic parts stuck in a thermoforming machine, he became trapped when the machine’s conveyor cycled automatically and was fatally crushed at a Cambridge plastics plant.
A federal workplace safety investigation of the Nov. 17, 2021, incident by OSHA found that if Encore Industries, Inc. — operating as Encore Plastics Corp./IPL Global — had remedied failures that contributed to the incident, the company could have prevented the tragedy.
Specifically, the investigation determined that the company continued to perform service and maintenance tasks after identifying that machine components continued to move after opening an interlocked machine enclosure door. The company also failed to ensure its energy control procedures included steps needed to shut down and de-energize the machine. OSHA also found Encore Industries failed to audit machine safety procedures periodically for effectiveness and train employees on their use.
Compounding the tragedy, investigators learned that two similar incidents occurred on the same machine — one on the day of the fatal incident and another two days prior — adding to the tragic nature of the investigation. In the two prior incidents, workers barely escaped injury.
“Our investigation found Encore Industries removed jams and performed other service and maintenance tasks with the knowledge that its inadequate and failing lockout tagout procedures exposed its workers to the risks associated with moving machine parts,” said OSHA Area Director Larry M. Johnson in Columbus, Ohio. “The company ignored reports of malfunctioning equipment and near misses. By doing so, Encore Industries failed to prevent this terrible tragedy and the avoidable loss of a family member and co-worker.”
During its investigation at Encore, OSHA opened a second investigation after a complaint alleged safety hazards in its warehouse. There, investigators found the company had failed to train workers on safe operation of forklifts and did not keep passageways and emergency exits clear or adequately marked, as the law requires.
In total, the investigations led OSHA to issue citations for one willful, one repeat, five serious and two other safety violations to Encore Industries. In 2020, OSHA issued citations to Encore Industries for violating lockout/tag out standards twice at this facility.
PHMSA Announces New Safety Measures to Protect Americans from Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Failures
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recently announced it is taking steps to implement new measures to strengthen its safety oversight of carbon dioxide (CO2
) pipelines around the country and protect communities from dangerous pipeline failures. The new measures, as well as an enforcement action taken today are a result of PHMSA’s investigation into a CO2
pipeline failure in Satartia, Mississippi, in 2020 that resulted in local evacuations and caused almost 50 people to seek medical attention.
To strengthen CO2 pipeline safety, PHMSA is undertaking the following:
- Initiating a new rulemaking to update standards for CO2 pipelines, including requirements related to emergency preparedness, and response;
- Issuing a Notice of Probable Violation, Proposed Civil Penalty, and Proposed Compliance Order (NOPV) to Denbury Gulf Coast Pipeline, LLC for multiple probable violations of Federal pipeline safety regulations (PSRs). The proposed civil penalties amount to $3,866,734.
- Completing a failure investigation report for the 2020 pipeline failure in Satartia, Mississippi;
- Issuing an updated nationwide advisory bulletin to all pipeline operators underscoring the need to plan for and mitigate risks related to land-movements and geohazards that pose risks to pipeline integrity like the 2020 incident in Satartia, Mississippi; and
- Conducting research solicitations to strengthen pipeline safety of CO2 pipelines.
“I recently visited with the first responders in Satartia to hear firsthand of the pipeline failure so that we can improve safety and environmental protections for CO2 pipelines and work to protect communities from experiences like this,” said PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown. “The safety of the American people is paramount and we’re taking action to strengthen CO2 pipeline safety standards to better protect communities, our first responders, and our environment.”
PHMSA’s investigation identified a number of probable violations in connection with the 2020 accident, including the following alleged failures:
- The lack of timely notification to the National Response Center to ensure the nearby communities were informed of the threat;
- The absence of written procedures for conducting normal operations, as well as those that would allow the operator to appropriately respond to emergencies, such as guidelines for communicating with emergency responders; and
- A failure to conduct routine inspections of its rights-of-way, which would have fostered a better understanding of the environmental conditions surrounding its facilities that could pose a threat to the safe operation of the pipeline.
PHMSA has longstanding and comprehensive guidance
on its enforcement of PSRs as well as its civil penalties, which are calculated using a range of criteria
and based on statutory limitations. Under the authorities granted by Congress, PHMSA may propose civil penalties, with the recipient of the NOPV being able to contest, contest in part, or accept them. A pipeline operator that receives a proposed civil penalty may also request and receive an informal hearing before a presiding official of the agency and prior to a proposed civil penalty being finalized. PHMSA publishes its entire history of enforcement actions online for public consumption, available here
Ship Owner and Operator Plead Guilty to Environmental and Safety Crimes
Empire Bulkers Limited and Joanna Maritime Limited, related companies based in Greece, pleaded guilty today to knowing violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and the Ports and Waterways Safety Act related to the Motor Vessel Joanna
The guilty pleas took place in federal court in New Orleans, Louisiana, before U.S. District Court Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon. If the proposed plea agreement is approved by the court, the companies will be fined $2 million ($1 million each) and serve four years of probation subject to the terms of an environmental compliance plan that includes independent ship audits and supervision by a court appointed monitor.
“Deliberate violation of environmental and safety laws pose a serious threat to U.S. ports and waters, as well as to those working on ships,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “These corporations knowingly engaged in dangerous and deceitful misconduct that warrants robust enforcement of the law.”
“This prosecution sends a clear and deterrent message that those who cut corners and break the law will be vigorously prosecuted,” said U.S. Attorney Duane Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “These companies will be under close supervision going forward.”
In pleading guilty, Empire Bulkers and Joanna Maritime admitted to knowingly falsifying the ship’s Oil Record Book, a required log, that concealed overboard discharges of oil contaminated waste made in violation of MARPOL, an international treaty to which the United States is a party. The criminal violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships was discovered by a U.S. Coast Guard inspector who noticed that a valve handle used to sample the oil content of overboard discharges was out of position during a March 2021 inspection in New Orleans, according to a joint factual statement filed in court. A metal piece found welded inside enabled overboard discharges to occur while the sample being evaluated by the Oil Content Monitor was being diluted with fresh water.
A Coast Guard advisory issued in 2008 as well as a notice from the manufacturer of the monitor warned about this exact method of tricking the oil content monitor. Overboard discharges are only permissible if they are processed through an oily water separator and measured by the oil content monitor to contain a concentration of oil less than 15 parts per million (ppm) without dilution. The entries made in the oil record book relating to overboard discharges and presented to the Coast Guard falsely indicated that discharges had occurred through 15 ppm equipment. The ship owner and operator also admitted that discharge entries in the oil record book had been co-signed by an engineer that did not have anything to do with the operations or have knowledge of their accuracy.
The Coast Guard discovered an unreported safety hazard during the same inspection. After Coast Guard was on the vessel, ship representatives sought permission to maneuver from the Bonnet Carre Anchorage to the CCI Buoys further upriver where cargo operations were scheduled to take place. Coast Guard inspectors travelling with the ship during the voyage noticed drops of oil in the engine room. They followed the trail of oil which led near the purifier room. When they looked inside, the purifier room, the Coast Guard discovered that the discharge line from the pressure relief valves had been disconnected and crimped closed thus disabling both pressure relief valves. The safety relief valves on the fuel oil heaters serve a critical safety function because they allow pressure to be released and oil diverted to a waste oil tank. In papers filed in court, the defendants admitted that the plugging of the relief valves and the large volume of oil leaking from the pressure relief valve presented hazardous conditions that had not been immediately reported to the Coast Guard in violation of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act. Had there been a fire or explosion in the purifier room, it could have been catastrophic and resulted in a loss of propulsion, loss of life, and pollution, according to the factual statement.
Illinois Construction Contractor Continues to Ignore Deadly Fall Hazards,
A Roselle contractor’s history of violating federal safety standards and ignoring safety citations and penalties — and a willingness to expose its workers to serious injuries or worse — continues, as federal inspectors found during their Nov. 8, 2021, investigation at a Park Ridge residential construction site.
Currently, Emerald, Inc. owes OSHA more than $378,561 in penalties from six previous inspections dating back to 2018. In addition, the company has not responded to citations issued by OSHA in 2018, 2020 and 2021. The unpaid penalties have been referred for debt collection.
“Emerald, Inc. continues to put its workers at risk of the construction industry’s most cited safety hazard – a fall from heights – which can leave workers with serious debilitating injuries or worse,” explained OSHA Chicago North Area Director Angeline Loftus in Des Plaines, Illinois. “The company’s disregard of federal safety standards and willingness to gamble with its workers’ lives is disturbing. OSHA will continue to cite the company for its violations and hold them legally responsible for the dangerous risks they are taking.”
In the agency’s most recent investigation, an OSHA inspector found Emerald exposing a foreman and a roofer to deadly fall hazards as they worked at heights of up to 22 feet above the ground with inadequate fall protection. The investigation determined Emerald had failed to equip workers with adequate fall protection equipment and did not train workers on the proper use of powered industrial vehicles, ensure the use of head and eye protection and allow workers to use ladders improperly.
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