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
Normally when a tanker truck explodes and people are nearby, the outcome is grim. However, eight people escaped serious injury when a fuel tanker blew up while employees were draining fuel from it into two large tanks.
The incident, which occurred at a Petro-Canada refueling station in Montreal, QC, sent the truck’s driver flying into the air, but reportedly he was not seriously injured. Seven other workers were treated for shock.
A witness said several explosions followed the initial blast. Dozens of firefighters were dispatched to the scene to extinguish the burning fuel.Read More
Think about fire hazards in your workplace and liquids probably won’t be at the top of your list. But certain liquids, including acetone, diesel fuel, gasoline, paint and turpentine, can easily catch fire or ignite.
At temperatures above their flashpoints, flammable and combustible liquids give off enough vapor to form mixtures with air that can be easily ignited and burn.
The ignition source can be a spark, a flame, friction, a hot surface or any other source of ignition. “Hidden” sources include static electricity, light switches and other electrical devices such as power tools. If sprayed or misted in the air, flammable and combustible liquids may burn at any temperature if there’s an ignition source.
Once they are ignited, flammable and combustible liquids can spread fire widely by flowing under doors, down stairs and into neighboring buildings.
Share with your workers these tips for working safely with flammable and combustible liquids:
Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)Read More
Using a gasoline-powered pressure washer in a poorly ventilated area below deck in a fishing boat has killed one dock worker and injured several others, including emergency personnel.
Jose Baptista died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Two other workers taken to hospital survived, as did five paramedics, one police officer and a firefighter. The incident occurred in New Bedford, MA. The 38-year-old victim was married with two children.
The New Bedford fire department measured a carbon monoxide level higher than 1,000 parts per million – more than 28 times higher than the maximum allowable outdoor level of 35 ppm during one hour. There is no permitted indoor exposure level.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are about 500 estimated unintentional carbon monoxide deaths across the US every year – plus about 2,000 intentional deaths (suicides).
Read more about preventing carbon monoxide exposures from small engines and tools by clicking on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
Some company owners view occupational safety and health fines as part of the cost of doing business. And a much smaller number don’t bother addressing issues raised by safety inspectors and fail to pay fines.
A logging company operating in White Swan, WA, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for alleged failure to abate previously-cited safety concerns. It also faces repeat, serious and other-than-serious violations that collectively carry proposed penalties totaling $103,400.
The inspections were initiated as a follow-up to an OSHA fatality inspection conducted in 2005. Wheeler Logging Co. was cited for numerous violations. OSHA says the company neither responded to the 2005 citations nor paid the previous penalties.
The failure-to-abate citation addresses separation and protection of fuel storage tanks. Violations cited in 2005 have not been corrected. The repeat citations were issued for failure to provide OSHA with copies of OSHA 300 and 301 forms for reporting injuries and other incidents, and failure to label containers of hazardous chemicals.
The serious citation alleges violations related to machine guarding, compressed gas cylinders, electrical hazards and hazard communication. The other-than-serious citation alleges violations involving fire exits, fire extinguishers and electrical hazards.
A December propane explosion at a gear manufacturing plant in Milwaukee, WI, killed three workers and injured 44 others, but the toll could have been a lot worse. A larger disaster was averted because many workers who had smelled propane evacuated the factory shortly before it blew up.
A back-up liquid propane system reportedly was being tested not long before the explosion occurred. When the smell of gas was noticed the system was shut down. Workers had been evacuating the plant for nearly 15 minutes when the explosion occurred.
The blast, described as being as intense as a bomb explosion or plane crash, killed Curtis Lane, 38, Thomas Letendre, 49, and Daniel Kuster, 35. Witnesses described seeing the building’s walls push outward before the structure collapsed.
An estimated 600 workers had been in the complex – covering 61 acres and 1.5 million square feet of buildings – at the time of the explosion. A leaking propane tank is the suspected cause of the incident.
Info to go: For more information on propane and some of its hazards follow the link provided at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
Utility officials in Washington State say it’s only through sheer luck that someone wasn’t killed when utility lines were struck repeatedly by equipment at construction sites. Both natural gas lines and power lines were struck in about 10 instances during a two-year period, resulting in several gas leaks.
The state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission has proposed $61,000 in penalties against Talerico Construction Inc. of Puyallup, WA, for allegedly hitting utility lines, causing gas leaks and not notifying officials.
The commission alleges that in at least one case, workers used tape in an effort to stem a gas leak. Several of the utility line strikes occurred at residential construction sites in Thurston County.
Washington State has a “Call Before You Dig” law requiring construction companies and property owners to notify utility officials of their plans to dig at least two business days in advance of actual work. Failure to do so can result in a $10,000 penalty. If lines are accidentally struck during work, such incidents also must be reported.
The company is reportedly contesting the charges and denying that the public was ever at risk.
Info to go: Read more about the hazards of striking underground gas lines by clicking on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
Most people wouldn’t think of firing up a portable gasoline-powered generator inside a home or garage. But not everyone is aware of the deadly risk of generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning which claimed 64 lives across the US in 2005 and 32 lives between October and December 2006.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has ordered that all new portable generators sold in the US contain warning labels stating: “Using a generator indoors can kill you in minutes.”
The labels also warn that carbon monoxide is a poison that is odorless and invisible and that generators should only be used outside and away from windows, doors and vents.
People seem to be making bad choices about where to use these generators following hurricanes, ice storms and other events that cause electrical power outages. Workers have also died as a result of using these generators indoors at construction and other sites.
Supervisor Tip: Share this information with your workers.
Info to go: Read more about the hazards of carbon monoxide by clicking on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
An Alberta worker who was severely burned and disfigured in an explosion and fire has exhausted his court options to sue two companies he blames for his injuries.
Ralph Hanke was operating an ice-resurfacing machine in an Edmonton arena in early 1995 when the machine exploded, throwing him to the ground and causing severe burns that led to a two-year stay in hospital. He lost both of his ears and eyelids, his upper lip, and the fingers and thumb on his right hand.
Investigation found that a hot water hose had mistakenly been placed into the machine’s gasoline tank, instead of its water tank. When hot water overfilled the gasoline tank, gasoline vapors were released and ignited by an overhead heater, causing an explosion and fire.
Hanke launched a $4.9 million lawsuit against the builder and distributor of the machine, arguing that a design flaw caused the explosion. He said the gasoline and water tanks looked similar and were too close together, which made it easy to confuse them.
Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that Hanke should have noticed that a hot water hose had been placed in the gasoline tank. That court found that one tank was smaller than the other and the one containing gasoline had a “gasoline only” label on it. Hanke also admitted that he had not been confused by which tank was which.
Hanke appealed the decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal, which in turn ordered a new trial. The two companies appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, which supported the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench decision.
Ice resurfacing machines such as the one that exploded are no longer in production.Read More
An incident in England shows the importance of checking an installer’s qualifications before letting him or her loose on a job. The owner of a heating company has been fined the equivalent of almost $8,900 US (about $9,800 CAD) for installing a boiler without being properly qualified.
Andrew John Major, who operates Lakeland Underfloor Heating Specialist, was convicted for performing a gasfitting installation that he was not allowed by law to undertake. Major also admitted in court that his company had not carried out work in accordance with appropriate standards and in such a way to prevent danger to any person.
Another company discovered that gas was leaking where a pipe was connected to the boiler. Other installation faults were also noted. Major said his company mainly did work on properties that were heated by oil. In this case he said he had tried to get a qualified gasfitter to check the job, but was unable to secure one.
The United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued a warning to companies and organizations to ensure that those performing work on heating systems are qualified to do so. An HSE spokesman said poorly installed or faulty gas appliances can result in carbon monoxide poisoning or fires and explosions.
Although this situation occurred in England, companies in North America can take a lesson from the importance of checking out credentials before trusting someone with a job that could go dangerously wrong in an instant.Read More