Safety Alert on Tank Level Switches

August 07, 2006

On December 11, 2005, there was a major fire and explosion at the Buncefield petroleum storage depot in Hemel Hempstead, England. 

The report indicates that the explosion probably resulted from the ignition of a vapor cloud formed when a tank containing unleaded gasoline overflowed. One aspect of the investigation is the operation of the "ultimate high level switch" on the tank. It is part of the system designed to prevent the tank from overflowing.

  Although these types of level switches are manufactured in the United Kingdom, the HSE believes that they have been supplied to customers throughout Europe and North America.

The safety alert is primarily for the attention of companies operating oil/fuel storage facilities. However, it may also be relevant to other sites storing hazardous substances in large tanks where level gauges are used.


Synthron Faces $379,050 Fine Following Fatal Explosion

The North Carolina Department of Labor has announced that it will fine a Morganton chemical company $379,050 for violations it says it found in the wake of a fatal January explosion.

The penalty against Synthron Inc. is the fourth largest the NC Department of Labor has ever assessed, officials said.

The department cited the company for 40 violations of the state's Occupational Safety and Health Act, nine of which were categorized as willful serious, meaning they show an intentional violation of or plain indifference to requirements.

Violations included a lack of adequate training and written directions regarding use of the paint additive being made the day of the blast, improper equipment maintenance and unsafe use of electrical equipment near flammable liquids.

The department's other findings paint a picture of unsafe working conditions throughout the plant, including improper storage, a lack of training, including instruction on an emergency action plan, unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals and no emergency alarm system.

"We hope these findings will prevent a similar accident from ever happening again in North Carolina," Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said.

The state cannot release the full report of its investigation until Synthron has exhausted all avenues for appeal. However, officials said Tuesday that the company had been making a larger-than-normal batch of a paint additive the day of the blast.

The formula for the larger batch contained the wrong quantities of chemicals, causing a runaway reaction and the explosion, said Allen McNeely, the state's occupational safety and health director.

Plant employees said that their work order that day called for more additive than the reactor had ever manufactured. Previous reports have also indicated the blast was caused by an out-of-control reaction.

All but three of Synthron's 18 workers suffered injuries the day of the blast, and one -- maintenance supervisor Curtis "Butch" Brackett -- died five days later.


Safety Alert: Deadly Hydrogen Sulfide

As a result of the OSHA Alliance Program, a safety alert was developed through the cooperative efforts of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Shipbuilding Association, the National Shipbuilding Research Program, and the Shipbuilders Council of America. The document also describes how to prevent accidents involving hydrogen sulfide gas.

Shipyard employers and employees need to be fully aware of the hazards and dangers of sewage systems on ships and at shipyard shore facilities. In recent years, there have been several fatal accidents where up to four workers were killed while working on a sewage system. The principal cause of these worker deaths was the inhalation of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas, which can be generated by sewage. H2S gas smells like rotten eggs and, when inhaled, can render workers unconscious in seconds and kill them. With proper training and procedures, employers can prevent accidents involving H2S gas from sewage systems.


OSHA Signs Partnership with Ragnar Benson LLC, Chicago Carpenters

Ragnar Benson LLC and the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters demonstrated their dedication to workplace safety and health by signing a formal partnership with OSHA. The partnership is designed to maximize worker safety on a $100 million Lowe's regional distribution center construction project in Rockford, Ill.

"Construction work continues to rank among the most hazardous of all occupations," said Kathy O'Connell, OSHA's area director of the Aurora, Ill., office. "This partnership will help us reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities at this site. We are genuinely proud to have both groups in our corner."

When completed in 2007, the Lowe's center will be 1.4 million square feet. The project will employ as many as 200 construction workers on-site at the peak of construction activities. The partnership provides for increased training for workers and supervisors and site-specific orientation sessions that have proven effective in their approach to safety at other job sites. Ragnar Benson LLC will manage the construction project.

OSHA health and safety partnerships are part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao's ongoing effort to improve health and safety for workers. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.


OSHA Cites Lone Star Infrastructure Following Fatality


OSHA cited Lone Star Infrastructure in Austin, Tex., following the death of an employee at the company's work site near Georgetown. Proposed penalties total $43,000. The agency cited the company for seven alleged serious, one alleged repeat and four alleged other-than-serious violations, following an investigation that began Feb. 15. The agency was notified that an employee who was hosing down the auger of a paving machine was caught in the rotating blades and killed instantly. Lone Star Infrastructure, a consortium of companies working on the state Highway 130 project in the Austin-Georgetown area, employs about 1,200 workers involved in building roads and constructing bridge structures.

"This tragic accident could possibly have been avoided if the company had followed OSHA's safety standards," said Eric Harbin, OSHA's Austin area office director. "The company did not comply with the operating manual instructions that clearly state moving parts should never be running while equipment is being cleaned."

The serious violations included a failure to ensure that the power to construction equipment was shut down and locked out before an employee performed cleaning, failure to protect employees from electrical hazards, and failure to make necessary repairs or replace defective equipment. A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The repeat violation was for failure to train employees about safety and maintenance procedures. Repeat citations are issued when an employer has previously been cited for the same or a substantially similar violation that has become a final order.


OSHA Cites Cargo Handling Company after Longshoreman Killed


OSHA cited Sun Terminals, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after a fatal accident at Port Everglades, Fla. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $52,250.


"This tragic accident should not have happened," said Luis R. Santiago, OSHA's area director in Fort Lauderdale. "It could have been avoided if the employer had followed required safety procedures."

OSHA's investigation began after a March 25 accident that resulted in the death of a longshoreman. The worker was struck by an elevated container that pushed him, crushing his head against a steel support beam.

Sun Terminals was cited for 21 alleged serious violations of safety and health standards. The citations, with proposed penalties totaling $51,750, included exposing employees to being struck and crushed by an overhead cargo container, failing to train employees in proper safety procedures, failing to train supervisors in accident prevention, and exposing workers to numerous other hazards.The company also received two citations for other-than-serious violations with proposed penalties of $500. These were issued for allegedly failing to provide proper instructions for mounting and demounting truck tires and for failing to maintain a written hazard-communication program on the safe use of chemicals.


OSHA Fines Foundry $144,750 for Safety and Health Hazards

Unguarded machinery, inadequate hearing protection, lead overexposures and a steam explosion hazard at a Brooklyn, N.Y., foundry have resulted in $144,750 in proposed fines from OSHA. J&J Bronze & Aluminum Casting Corp. was cited for a total of 33 alleged willful, serious and other-than-serious safety and health hazards following OSHA health and safety inspections that started on Feb. 2.

OSHA found that employees exposed to high noise levels were not provided an audiometric testing program and audiograms to measure possible hearing loss, and that saw blades and abrasive grinders were not guarded against employee contact. These conditions resulted in the issuance of three willful citations, which account for $99,000 of the total fines.


The company was also issued 28 serious citations, with $45,250 in fines for various health and safety hazards.

Serious health hazards included employee overexposure to lead; the absence of work practices, engineering controls, respirators, a clean changing room, showers, medical surveillance, employee training and other required safeguards; a deficient hazard communication program; lack of hearing and eye protection; and no hearing conservation training.

Safety hazards included an obstructed exit route; lack of a program, procedures, equipment and employee training to prevent the accidental startup of machinery during maintenance; unguarded sanders, belts and pulleys; uninspected lifting hooks and slings; no fire extinguisher training; an unmaintained sprinkler system; and electrical hazards.

Chief among the safety hazards was a potential steam explosion hazard in the plant’s furnace and mold form areas that had a wet fire sprinkler system. Metal in these areas can be heated as high as 2100 degrees. If water from the sprinklers came in contact with the molten metal, the resulting pressure and steam could generate an explosive reaction.

The company was also issued two other-than-serious citations and fined $500 for failing to inform employees about available medical records and for failing to post the required summary of occupational injuries and illnesses.


OSHA, Rochester Business Alliance, Renew Joint Effort to Promote Workplace Safety and Health


OSHA has renewed an alliance with the Rochester Business Alliance. First signed in 2003, the purpose of the alliance is to foster a culture of safety and health excellence among the Rochester Business Alliance's 2,900 member organizations in Western and Central New York by providing them with occupational safety and health information and increasing their access to training resources.

The alliance has focused on mentoring and providing health and safety information to companies seeking to improve their existing safety and health programs to enable them to qualify for OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). Activities included regular meetings to discuss best practices in occupational health and safety between companies participating in VPP and employers wishing to obtain VPP status.

In addition, OSHA and the Rochester Business Alliance have held monthly forums focusing on specific health, safety and environmental topics. A monthly electronic newsletter addresses upcoming safety and health training, new OSHA developments and other topics for members of the Rochester Business Alliance, which provides human-resource-related services and comprehensive safety and health assistance to its member companies.

"This alliance is dynamic and forward-looking," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator. "In addition to helping companies address current safety and health issues, it also aids them in taking the next step-developing and implementing safety and health management systems effective enough to qualify for VPP participation."

The alliance was signed Aug. 2. It is one of more than 400 such alliances between OSHA and organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace.


OSHA, Construction Exchange of Buffalo & WNY Inc. Renew Alliance


OSHA’s Buffalo area office has renewed its alliance with the Construction Exchange of Buffalo & WNY Inc.

First signed in 2003, the alliance provides construction-related safety and health training to the Construction Exchange's 450 member companies, particularly smaller contractors, and to students enrolled in the building trades program in the region's vocational schools.

"This alliance is particularly promising because it impacts current and future construction workers," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator. "By providing important, relevant training and information to contractors and students, we seek to reduce construction injuries and illnesses."

As part of the alliance, the Construction Exchange adopted Buffalo's McKinley High School to help its students enter the construction industry. Thirty-four students in the program have completed OSHA's 10-hour construction safety course.

OSHA and the Construction Exchange also held a seminar that discussed and explained the roles and responsibilities of construction site supervisors, superintendents and foremen. OSHA has supplied the Construction Exchange with articles and enforcement statistics for distribution to its members through an electronic newsletter.

"With the renewal of this alliance, we look forward to working with the Construction Exchange to continue promoting a culture of safety and health in Western New York's construction industry," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's Buffalo area director.

The Construction Exchange of Buffalo & WNY Inc. is a nonprofit organization that serves member companies in Western New York. The alliance renewal was signed at the Exchange's office in Tonawanda, N.Y. Clark, Dube and James Logan, the Exchange's executive director, signed the alliance renewal. Information about OSHA alliances in Western New York may be obtained by calling (716) 551-3053.


Quick Action by OSHA Compliance Officer Protects Employees from Electrical Hazard

On July 15, while driving through Prospect Heights, Ill., OSHA compliance safety and health officer Gary Weil of OSHA's Chicago North Area office spotted three employees at a construction site performing masonry work from tubular-welded frame scaffolding. Weil saw they were exposed to fall hazards and stopped to initiate an inspection. 


New OSHA Fact Sheet Highlights Hexavalent Chromium


Virtual Library Now Available on Improving Security at the Workplace


Medical and First Aid Standard Reminder

OSHA requires employers to make first-aid supplies readily available to its employees. The medical services and first-aid standards , however, do not dictate what should be included in a first-aid kit.  Here are some basic products to treat common job-related injuries:


  • Absorbent compress, 32 sq. in. [no side < 4"] (1)
  • Adhesive bandages, 1" x 3" (16)
  • Adhesive tape, 5 yd. (1)
  • Antiseptic, 0.5g application (10)
  • Burn treatment, 0.5g application (6)
  • Medical exam gloves (2 pair)
  • Sterile pads, 3" x 3" (4)
  • Triangular bandage, 40" x 40" x 56" (1)

You should routinely survey the needs of your workplace and supplement your first-aid kits accordingly.