SCA Packaging Fined $11,050 Following Employee Fatality

November 15, 2004

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division has fined SCA Packaging North America $11,050 for allegedly committing several serious workplace safety violations.

The alleged violations were cited in connection with the death of a worker at its Wilsonville, OR plant in June. According to OSHA, the fatality occurred when a 2,200-pound bag of material used to make foam packaging fell on a worker while he was operating a forklift that was moving two bags of the materials.

OSHAÆs citations charge that SCA Packaging violated a rule that any stacked materials must be properly secured to prevent roll-offs. The agencyÆs investigation also found that the company had allowed the employee to operate a forklift without a permit and without direct supervision. As well, OSHA noted that the company allowed employees had to stand under forklift blades, which is against federal regulations.

The Wilsonville plant took steps to correct the violations during the investigation. SCA Packaging acquired the plant, which produces foam packaging products, through a 2001 merger. The plant employs thirty-three workers.

OSHA defines a serious violation as any that has a strong likelihood of an employee fatality. The agency last inspected the Wilsonville plant in August 2003. The company was not cited at that time.

SCA Packaging is in the first phase of contesting the citations through an informal appeals session, where representatives from OSHA meet with a company's legal counsel. While this can take several months, the majority of cases are resolved during the first phase. If a company and OSHA fail to reach an agreement through informal appeals, the case may go to court.

Pipeline Blast Latest Incident for San Francisco-Area Project

A troubled $180 million project near San Francisco, CA faced another setback recently when a construction crew struck a high-pressure underground fuel pipeline, causing an explosion.

The Walnut Creek-San Ramon Valley Improvement Project was designed to improve the East Bay Municipal Utility District's ability to fill East Bay reservoirs in case of a disaster. The project calls for major upgrades to the Walnut Creek treatment plant, the laying of four miles of new 69-inch diameter pipe under Walnut Creek city streets, and numerous storage and pumping improvements in the San Ramon Valley.

The San Ramon Valley improvements were finished last year; the Walnut Creek work is scheduled to finish late next year.

Following public outcry early in the project over plans for trenching through Walnut Creek, the district was forced to switch to more costly tunneling methods, resulting in an additional $10 - $15 million to the project. The board fired the prime contractor in May, citing numerous delays. Those missed deadlines put the project a year behind schedule and incurred the wrath of Walnut Creek officials, due to delays in their own construction projects.

The new contractor, Mountain Cascade Inc., has received 10 serious violations by OSHA since 1999. The most recent of was issued after an improperly secured 36-inch sewer pipe crushed a worker to death in March.

When the project is completed, it will bring an extra 31 million gallons of water storage to the Walnut Creek-San Ramon Valley water system, along with more reliable water reserves and pressure during emergencies and extended dry spells, according to the district.

OSHA Announces Alliance with Hispanic Group

OSHA recently announced alliances with two Buffalo, NY groups to improve workplace safety and by providing bi-lingual safety training to Hispanic workers.

OSHA officials signed the agreement, which covers job safety and health training, with Hispanics United of Buffalo Inc. (HUB), a nonprofit social services agency. HUB will provide outreach and locations for the training sessions.

It is hoped that as many as 1,000 workers will receive safety training over the next year. OSHA officials said that properly- trained workers are better able to guard against hazards, especially in temporary construction or landscaping jobs where safety policies may be lax.

OSHA has launched a nationwide push for safety for Hispanic workers following studies that showed an epidemic of workplace deaths. While workplace fatalities dropped 10 percent for other groups during the 1990s, Hispanics saw a 53 percent increase during the same period.

According to OSHA, safety for Hispanic workers has improved in recent years, with job fatalities down 6 percent in 2003.

However, foreign-born worker continue to face disproportionate risks. Sixty-five percent of the 791 Hispanics who died on the job last year were foreign born. OSHA considers the language barrier and fear of speaking up about unsafe conditions as likely reasons.

OSHA will provide 10-hour safety training sessions aimed at construction and general industry. The agency will also train HUB staff to perform safety training, while the state Labor Department provides training and consultation for employers.

Georgia-Pacific Accepted as First VPP Corporate Participant

OSHA has formally approved Georgia-Pacific Corporation as the first company in OSHA's new Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) Corporate Pilot program.

The VPP Corporate Pilot was designed to streamline the VPP application and onsite evaluation processes for corporations that have made a commitment to VPP. The initiative also focuses on eliminating redundancy in the application requirements for sites from the same corporation.

Georgia-Pacific was accepted after a comprehensive program evaluation of the company's safety and health management systems at its headquarters in Atlanta. The evaluation included key aspects of Georgia-Pacific's safety and health policies, programs and records, as well as interviews with senior managers and executives. Key to their approval was the strength of their internal prescreening processes to ensure VPP readiness of Georgia-Pacific locations prior to submitting an application and OSHA conducting the onsite evaluation.

Georgia-PacificÆs acceptance was announced during the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association conference in Las Vegas in August. Five additional corporations and the U.S. Postal Service are also applying to become VPP Corporate Pilot members.

VPP Corporate, along with "OSHA Challenge" and "VPP for Construction," are three new initiatives announced last year to expand the Voluntary Protection Programs.

Georgia-Pacific is one of the world's leading manufacturers and marketers of tissue, packaging, paper, building products and related chemicals. The company employs approximately 55,000 people at more than 300 locations in North America and Europe. Thirty percent of its 206 U.S. manufacturing locations currently participate in VPP.

Minnesota Hospital Worker Fatally Scalded

A research technician at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, MN was fatally scalded after being trapped in a large walk-in equipment washer.

The accident is currently the subject of an OSHA investigation. The washer where the incident occurred is used to clean and sterilize large pieces of equipment, such as carts, for the hospital's research department. The water can reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit; the investigation will determine the water's temperature at the time of the accident.

OSHA is investigating how the accident happened by inspecting the equipment involved, examining safety and health training that was offered to workers, and interviewing employees.

The agency must be notified within eight hours if three or more people are injured on the job and hospitalized or someone is killed in a workplace accident. Often, OSHA is notified if an accident involves serious injury and does not meet those criteria.

The investigation is expected to last about a month. If OSHA finds a serious violation caused or contributed to the death, a minimum, non-negotiable penalty of $25,000 will be assessed.