WHAT’S AT STAKE
Workplace safety laws require companies to keep material safety data sheets (MSDSs) readily available for every chemical they use. Simply put, these sheets lay out the hazards associated with chemicals you are likely to encounter at work.Read More
A 45-year-old man who worked for 20 years in popcorn and popcorn-flavoring plants in the Chicago area has been awarded $30.4 million by a jury for a serious work-related lung condition. The award is believed to be the largest of its kind ever given to an individual.
Gerardo Solis has a condition called bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung” which has damaged his lungs so badly that he needs a lung transplant.
A Chicago jury found chemical company BASF responsible for Solis’ exposure to diacetyl, which gives foods a buttery flavor. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says its research suggests diacetyl is harmful to humans when heated and inhaled over a prolonged period.
Info to go: Read more about bronchiolitis obliterans by clicking on the Info to Go safety links at www.SafeSpervisor.comRead More
People are so busy these days that a lunch “break” frequently comes down to gobbling a quick sandwich with one hand while continuing to work with the other hand.
Aside from the stress associated with not taking a proper lunch break away from your workstation, dropping a wrench or taking off your work gloves and then tucking into a sandwich can be hazardous to your health, for these reasons:
Not only is it potentially hazardous to your health to eat anything without first washing your hands with hot soap and water, you also need to consider that chewing gum, drinking coffee or other beverages, smoking, touching your mouth, nose or eyes, handling contact lenses or applying make-up or lipstick in a chemically contaminated area can also harm you.
Few people would find it safe to place a hand in a chemical solution and touch it to their lips, but touching food after you’ve been handling chemicals isn’t any different.
If you have been handling chemicals while wearing gloves and you believe it’s fine to remove those gloves and eat, drink or smoke without first washing your hands, think again. Contamination on those gloves, whether from handling chemicals, laboratory agents or bloodborne pathogens in a medical setting, can easily be transferred to your hands while removing gloves.
No one needs to be told about the importance of washing their hands with soap and water after using a toilet, but if chemicals or biological agents have touched your hands, you also need to wash your hands before answering nature’s call.
Watch Where You Store Your Lunch
Another mistake workers often make is to store food or drink in refrigerators in which chemicals, drugs or biological agents are also stored. Doing so can easily contaminate food or beverage items. Food should only be kept cool in your lunchroom’s fridge.
Keep these additional chemical handling tips in mind:
Taking a minute to thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water before eating isn’t just practicing good hygiene. It can prevent serious illness from chemical exposures.Read More
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says it will soon begin a multi-year study examining the potential health effects experienced by workers involved in the cleanup of the Gulf oil spill—the largest in US history.
The NIH says it will spend $10 million and an additional $10 million has been pledged by BP. The NIH will have full autonomy on how the BP money is spent, with input from external scientific experts in environmental health.
“It was clear to us that we need to begin immediately studying the health of the workers most directly involved in responding to this crisis,” says NIH Director Francis Collins.
The study will focus on workers’ exposure to oil and dispersant products and potential health consequences, including respiratory, neurobehavioral, carcinogenic and immunological conditions. It will also look into mental health concerns and oil spill related stressors such as job loss, family disruption and financial uncertainties.
“Clean up workers are likely to be the most heavily exposed of all population groups in the Gulf Coast region,” says Dale Sandler, chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and lead researcher on the study.
“We plan to enroll workers with varying levels of exposure. For example, we hope to recruit workers involved in oil burning, skimming and booming, equipment decontamination, wildlife cleanup and those with lower exposure, such as shoreline clean-up workers,” he adds.
People who completed worker safety training but did not have the opportunity to do any clean-up work, will also be compared to their counterparts who went on to conduct clean-up work.
“What we learn from this study may help us prepare for future incidents that put clean-up workers at risk,” says Sandler.Read More
Charges have been laid against two companies and four people in connection with the deaths of three workers at a Canadian mushroom farm in September 2008.
Ut Tran, Jimmy Chan and Ham Pham died as a result of a gas leak, while two other workers, Phan and Thang Tchen, suffered severe and irreversible brain damage as a result of inhaling hydrogen sulfide and ammonia.
The men were working in a pump house built above a mushroom composting waste water pit at a mushroom farm in Langley, BC, near Vancouver.
The 20-month investigation by 25 investigators was the most exhaustive ever undertaken by WorkSafeBC, according to spokeswoman Donna Freeman. As a result, 29 counts under British Columbia’s Workers’ Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations have been levied against A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. and HV Truong Ltd. and four company employees.
Charged are company owners Ha Quan Truong and Van Thi Truong, director Vy Tri Truong and supervisor Thinh Huu Doan. The maximum penalty that could be imposed for a first offence is six months in jail and a fine of nearly $620,000.
Several of the charges allege failure to protect the health and safety of workers and also failure to address hazardous workplace conditions. They also allege failure to identify a confined space by a sign or other effective means to identify a hazard and prevent entry by unauthorized workers.Read More
US Postal Service Issued $357,000 in Proposed Penalties for alleged electrical hazards. OSHA initiated an inspection in response to worker complaints and subsequently cited five willful violations alleging that mechanics and technicians were working near or with live electrical equipment or parts without adequate training, safe electrical work practices, required PPE and insulated tools. A serious citation was also issued for alleged failure to have an authorized person conduct periodic inspections of the facility’s energy control procedures to prevent the unexpected startup of machinery during maintenance. [US Postal Service Boston Processing and Distribution Center, Boston, MA, Aug. 9, 2010].
US Postal Service Cited for Six Alleged Willful Violations carrying $420,000 in proposed fines. OSHA opened an inspection Jan. 30, 2010 in response to worker complaints and found untrained or unqualified workers routinely performing troubleshooting, servicing, voltage testing and maintenance on or near live electrical equipment, including mail sorting and cancelling machines. The machines had not first been de-energized and the workers lacked PPE, insulated tools and were not provided electrical lockout/tagout procedures to use. [US Postal Service Processing and Distribution Center, White River Junction,VT, July 29, 2010].
Foods Company Issued $247,000 in Proposed Fines for alleged failure to abate hazards. OSHA cited a plant in November 2009 for failure to provide adequate fall protection, machine guarding and hazardous energy controls for plant workers. A follow-up inspection found that several conditions remained unchanged. Alleged uncorrected hazards include missing or inadequate guardrails, inadequate guarding of moving parts of mixer machines and carrot shredders, failure to develop a lockout/tagout program and failure to provide workers with training and equipment to implement the program. OSHA also identified recurring machine guarding hazards and improper storage of oxygen and acetylene cylinders. [U.F.S. Industries, doing business as Sally Sherman Foods, Mount Vernon, NY, Aug. 4, 2010].
Concrete Contractor Cited for failure to comply with an OSHA settlement agreement to abate worker exposure to fall hazards. OSHA says the company entered into an agreement to address fall hazards following an inspection at a Jersey City, NJ, construction site in June 2008. A follow-up inspection found that the company failed to comply with the settlement agreement by not informing OSHA that it had performed work at eight sites in New York City and had also failed to properly address fall protection methods on those sites. OSHA says the company also failed to properly document a hazard assessment of various worksite tasks and failed to confirm the qualifications of its chief of construction operations and its safety director. Proposed penalties totaling $210,000 have been issued. [Broadway Concrete, New York City, NY, Aug. 4, 2010].
Roofing Contractor issued $53,200 in Proposed Fines for alleged willful and serious violations. OSHA cited willful failure to provide fall protection for employees working on roofs higher than six feet and for three serious alleged violations, including failure to provide fall protection on a ladder jack scaffold, improper scaffold access and a lack of hardhat use. [Eastern Roofing Systems Inc., Moscow, PA, Aug. 9, 2010].
Complaint Leads to 22 Citations and $191,500 in proposed penalties for alleged health and safety hazards. OSHA opened an inspection at a military aircraft parts manufacturer in February 2010 and issued willful safety violations for failure to provide proper lockout/tagout procedures and failure to provide protective machine guards on equipment. Serious citations allege issues such as failure to repair or replace hooks used to lift and hold items, obstructed exits, noise hazards, failure to properly maintain machinery, electrical hazards, failure to train workers on hazards associated with aluminum dust and using excessively pressurized air to clean parts. A repeat health violation alleging failure to provide a site-specific written respiratory program was also issued. [AAR Summa Technology, Huntsville, AL, Aug. 9, 2010].
SeaWorld of Florida Cited in Animal Trainer’s Death has been issued $75,000 in proposed fines. OSHA has issued one willful citation for exposing employees to struck-by and drowning hazards when interacting with killer whales, following the Feb. 24, 2010 death of a trainer. She was grabbed and pulled under water by a killer whale, which repeatedly struck and thrashed her about. Cause of death was drowning. A serious citation alleging that workers were exposed to fall hazards because of failure to install a stairway railing system was also issued. [SeaWorld of Florida, Orlando, FL, Aug. 23, 2010].
Company Issued Fines Exceeding $2 Million for alleged lead standard violations. OSHA has cited 42 willful and serious violations of the lead standard, including failure to use engineering controls to prevent overexposure to lead, failure to perform air sampling to determine the extent of its workers’ exposure, failure to provide showers for workers who had been exposed to lead and failure to provide blood testing to lead-exposed workers every six months. OSHA says the company also violated the lead standard by giving its workers non-FDA-approved chelating agents to remove heavy metals from the body without medical supervision. Other citations allege failure to provide medical evaluations and fit testing for respirators and failure to abate a previously-cited violation for failure to implement a job rotation schedule to reduce lead exposures. Proposed penalties total $2,099,600. The company’s work involves cleaning gun ranges. [E.N. Range Inc., Miami, FL, Aug. 23, 2010].
Farmer-Owned Grain Cooperative Hit With Massive Proposed Fines after worker becomes engulfed in frozen soybeans. OSHA has proposed penalties totaling $721,000 after a worker became trapped up to his chest for four hours in 25F weather. The worker survived. OSHA says workers were required to enter grain storage bins without proper protection. Ten willful citations were issued for incidents of alleged failure to provide workers entering grain storage bins with body harnesses and lifelines, failure to provide an observer while other workers entered the grain bins, failure to ensure that safe procedures were implemented for entry into grain bins, failure to prohibit workers from walking on the grain inside the bin, failure to provide rescue equipment for workers entering bins and failure to implement an emergency action plan. [Cooperative Plus Inc., Burlington, WI, Aug. 4, 2010].
Polishing and Plating Company Fined $75,400 for workers’ alleged overexposure to chromium and chromic acid. An OSHA inspection resulted in one willful, 50 serious and two other-than-serious citations. The willful citation alleges that a worker was exposed to chromium VI above permissible exposure limits. Serious citations include alleged failure to provide proper protective equipment for workers working with lead and other dangerous dust and chemicals, failure to develop or implement a hazard communication program, failure to maintain material safety data information and allowing employees to be exposed to open circuit breaker panels and improperly marked electrical panels. [Wisconsin Polishing and Plating Inc., West Allis, WI, Aug. 11, 2010].
US Minerals LLC issued fines of $158,200 for alleged willful and other violations. A manufacturer of abrasive blasting and roofing materials was cited for willful failure to provide proper fall protection on elevated platforms more than 30 feet above ground and willful failure to provide proper lockout/tagout procedures. Serious citations allege failure to provide required energy-isolating control devices while employees worked on conveyor systems, failure to have proper start-up warning or emergency stop devices on remotely controlled conveyors and having broken outdoor electrical conduit and other equipment. The repeat citations allege failure to provide fall protection, failure to have required energy isolation and energy control training and procedures for workers and a lack of proper guarding on belt and pulley drive equipment. [US Minerals LLC, Baldwin, IL, Aug. 5, 2010]
Alleged Lack of Fall Protection Brings $70,000 in Proposed Fines to company. OSHA has cited willful failure to ensure that workers utilized mandatory fall protection while working on the roof of the Key Bank Building, which stands more than 40 feet above the ground. [Johnson Controls Inc. Toledo, OH, Aug. 9, 2010].
Fatality Leads to Willful and Serious Citations for Texas firm. OSHA opened an investigation after an explosion inside a permit-required confined space killed one worker and injured two others. Willful citations allege failure to eliminate and control hazardous atmospheres such as flammable gas, through ventilation, failure to complete confined space entry permits, failure to use intrinsically safe lights in hazardous locations and failure to annually fit-test employees for respirator use. Serious violations issued to the company include failure to mark exits, ensure flammables storage areas had self-closing doors, conduct workplace hazard assessments, monitor, evaluate and annually review and retain records for confined spaces, implement a hearing conservation program and secure compressed cylinders. The company was issued $161,600 in proposed penalties. [Thermal Polymer Systems LC, Angleton, TX, July 26, 2010].
Construction Company Facing Willful, Serious and Repeat Citations following a worker’s death. OSHA opened an investigation after a worker died as a result of being overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas. OSHA issued willful citations for failure to implement confined space entry procedures including testing, ventilation and rescue, along with failure to train employees regarding confined space hazards. Serious citations allege failure to train employees on the dangers of working with hazardous chemicals and failure to failure to inspect, properly maintain and repair damaged ladders. The repeat citations allege failure to make a reasonable estimate of employee exposure to hazardous chemicals such as hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide and failure to properly erect a ladder for use in accessing a sanitary sewer manhole. Fines totaling $136,000 have been proposed. [Matula & Matula Construction Inc., Lake Jackson, TX, Aug. 5, 2010].
Building Company Cited for Fall Hazards and other alleged safety issues. OSHA issued two willful citations alleging failure to provide and enforce the wearing of high-visibility vests by employees working on heavily traveled roadways and failure to provide adequate fall protection for employees. Also issued were 11 serious citations alleging failure to provide hazard recognition instruction, housekeeping of work and storage areas, proper handling and storage of compressed gas cylinders and welding equipment, stable access to elevated work areas, a properly designed horizontal lifeline system, proper anchorage for fall protection, safe egress from deep excavations, a means of preventing materials and equipment from entering excavations, safe access to tops of pier caps and a lack of competent person inspections for excavations prior to employee entry or for excavations exceeding five feet. Two repeat citations allege failure to provide a trained person to perform regular and frequent worksite inspections and provide employees with fall protection training instructions. The company was issued proposed fines totaling $127,800. [Cannon Builders Inc., Blackfoot, ID, Aug. 3, 2010].
AmeriCold Logistics Cited for Alleged Serious Safety Violations in Idaho. Eleven serious and five repeat safety violations carrying proposed fines of $189,000 were issued. Among alleged serious violations were worker exposure to hazards because of inadequate system design information, failure to correct equipment deficiencies, inadequate inspections of process equipment, inadequate process hazard analysis and a lack of mechanical integrity inspection documentation and written procedures for such inspections. Also cited were serious violations alleging fall hazards, unguarded evaporator fan blades and an inadequate number of exit routes. Repeat citations allege unguarded open-sided floors or platforms, a lack of an employee alarm system, a lack of piping and instrument diagrams for equipment in safety information, a lack of proper employee training and a lack of written procedures to maintain equipment. [AmeriCold Logistics LLC, Burley, ID, Aug. 12, 2010].Read More
Two years after Hans Olson died from sour gas exposure at a gas well in northwest Alberta, Canada, his mother, Alice, and brother, Ben, are hoping that charges against the victim’s employer will bring some answers.
Olson, 46, who was doing maintenance work on a gas well near Fox Creek, AB, died after he was exposed to the deadly gas. ELH Enterprises of Whitecourt, AB, has been charged with several violations of Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, including failure to provide proper training and failure to conduct a hazard assessment.
Ben Olson said he had been told that his brother had phoned his employer, asking how to do the job, before he was felled by hydrogen sulfide gas. Measurements taken at the site showed sour gas concentrations of 1,000 parts per million. Levels half that high can be lethal.
Olson was working alone, changing a gas-flow measuring device, when he was overcome by the gas. Someone was dispatched to check on him when he did not report in at a set time.Read More
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says large quantities of Chinese-made drywall imported into North America have been found to be tainted with hydrogen sulfide, which can cause nausea, fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, sore throats, chest pain and other health conditions.
The tainted drywall not only has made people sick, it’s also responsible for damaging copper and metal surfaces in homes in which it’s installed. Reports have surfaced regarding damage to copper plumbing, electrical wiring, appliances, air conditioners and electronic items such as computers.
More than 3,240 homeowners across Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia and Alabama have reported problems with Chinese manufactured drywall.
The CPSC says testing has shown that Chinese drywall emits hydrogen sulfide in amounts 100 times greater than drywall made elsewhere. It is speculated that wastewater contaminated with chemicals such as sulfur was used to mix the gypsum.
The commission has identified 10 brands of drywall that produce the highest emissions.
Info to go: Read the CSPC list of Chinese drywall products causing health concerns click on the Info to Go safety links at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
Claiming that more than one million workers are exposed to metalworking fluids and lubricants on the job, with a significant probability of serious health effects, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union is asking the US government for a comprehensive standard on metalworking fluids.
The UAW presented a petition to OSHA calling for a metalworking fluid standard that is effective, reasonable and consistent.
“All workers, union and non-union, need to be protected by a consistent, national federal standard for exposure to metalworking fluids,” says UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “These fluids are dangerous substances that can cause life-threatening conditions.”
Exposure to metalworking fluids has been associated with cancer of the larynx, rectum, pancreas, skin, scrotum, stomach, esophagus, lung and bladder. Other potential negative health effects include asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis (inflammation of the tiny air sacs in the lungs caused by hypersensitivity to inhaled organic materials).
Metalworking fluid exposures may occur in a variety of industries, ranging from auto and auto parts to aerospace, agriculture and other types of manufacturers.Read More
More than a quarter century after 36 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, killing thousands, seven plant officials have been convicted of death by negligence.
The convicted officials, who are well into their 70s, have received two-year jail terms and been fined the equivalent of $2,100 US each in the first criminal convictions associated to the leak, considered to be the worst industrial accident in history. They were released on bail and are expected to appeal their sentences.
A faulty valve allowed a large amount of water to flood into a storage tank containing methyl isocyanate, causing a chemical reaction. A huge amount of gas escaped into the atmosphere, engulfing the area around the plant.
It is believed that 4,000 residents of Bhopal died almost immediately and 15,000 others later died as a direct result of their exposure to the deadly gas.
Protesters who gathered following the verdict say the punishment is “too little, too late.”Read More