The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing $16.6 million in fines against three construction companies and 14 subcontractors in connection with a Feb. 7, 2010 natural gas explosion that killed six workers and injured 50 others at a Kleen Energy Systems LLC plant under construction in Middletown, CT.
A gas blow operation was being performed when the blast occurred. It involves pumping flammable natural gas under high pressure through new fuel gas lines to remove debris. During the operation a large amount of natural gas was vented into areas where it could not easily disperse.
OSHA says welding and other work being performed nearby created an extremely dangerous situation. The explosion occurred when the gas contacted an ignition source.
General contractor O&G Industries Inc., along with Keystone Construction and Maintenance Inc., the company in charge of the piping and gas blow and Bluewater Energy Services Inc., the commissioning and startup contractor for the plant, were all cited for performing the procedure in a manner that exposed workers to fire and explosion hazards.
Those hazards included the configuration of vent pipes in close proximity to scaffolding and other structures, along with failure to remove non-essential personnel from the area.
Citations were also issued for failure to install and use electrical equipment in accordance with its listing and labeling, allowing welding work during the gas blows and failure to train workers to recognize hazards associated with gas blows.
O&G was cited for 119 willful, 17 serious and three other-than-serious violations carrying proposed penalties of $8,347,000. Keystone Construction and Maintenance was issued 94 willful, 16 serious and one other-than-serious citations carrying $6,686,000 in proposed fines, while Bluewater Energy Services was issued 12 willful citations and eight serious citations carrying $896,000 in proposed penalties.
Also cited for additional serious violations were 14 subcontractors. Collectively they face proposed fines totaling $686,000.Read More
The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has issued a safety bulletin warning of the hazards of conducting hot work in a number of different industries.
Hot work is any work activity that involves burning, welding, cutting, brazing, grinding, soldering or similar operations that produce sparks which can ignite a flammable atmosphere.
The bulletin includes seven key lessons aimed at preventing worker deaths during hot work in and around storage tanks containing flammable materials. It was written following the CSB’s investigation into an explosion at the Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) corrugated cardboard mill in Tomahawk, WI, in July 2008.
Three maintenance workers died and one worker was injured in the PCA explosion, which occurred during welding above an 80-foot (24-meter) storage tank containing flammable hydrogen gas. The gas was the product of bacterial decomposition of organic fiber waste inside the tank.
At the time of the explosion, PCA did not recognize waste fiber tanks as potentially hazardous, nor did it require gas monitoring before any hot work.
The bulletin includes a recommendation that combustible gas monitoring, using a properly calibrated combustible gas detector, be conducted prior to and during hot work activities, even in areas where a flammable atmosphere is not anticipated.
The six remaining recommendations are as follows:
1. Use Alternatives – Whenever possible, avoid hot work and consider alternative methods.
2. Analyze the Hazards – Prior to the initiation of hot work, perform a hazard assessment that identifies the scope of the work, potential hazards, and methods of hazard control.
3. Test the Area – In work areas where flammable liquids and gases are stored or handled, drain and/or purge all equipment and piping before hot work is conducted. When welding on or in the vicinity of storage tanks and other containers, properly test and if necessary continuously monitor all surrounding tanks or adjacent spaces (not just the tank or container being worked on) for the presence of flammables and eliminate potential sources of flammables.
4. Use Written Permits – Ensure that qualified personnel familiar with the specific site hazards review and authorize all hot work and issue permits specifically identifying the work to be conducted and the required precautions.
5. Train Thoroughly – Train personnel on hot work policies/procedures, proper use and calibration of combustible gas detectors, safety equipment, and job specific hazards and controls in a language understood by the workforce.
6. Supervise Contractors – Provide safety supervision for outside contractors conducting hot work. Inform contractors about site-specific hazards, including the presence of flammable materials.
“Hot work around flammable gas or vapor is one of the most common causes of worker deaths that we see at the Chemical Safety Board. Tragically, most of these accidents are readily preventable with better hazard assessments, proper gas monitoring and other straightforward safety measures,” says CSB Board Member William Wark.
Info to go: Read the full CSB bulletin “Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths During Hot Work in and Around Tanks by clicking on the Info to Go safety links at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
A Manitoba study has found that a concerning number of welders in that province are being overexposed to hazardous welding fumes.
Commissioned by the Manitoba Workers’ Compensation Board, the two-year study examined about 40 different workplaces and found that 50 percent of the MIG (metal inert gas) welders who did not use respirators or did not have local exhaust ventilation provided were being overexposed to welding fumes.
Overexposure has been linked to respiratory, reproductive and central nervous system illnesses, as well as cancer.
“Contrary to what many welders believe, welding on mild steel results in higher exposure than welding on stainless steel. That is because up to 95 percent of the exposure is from the welding wire and not the metal being welded,” says SafeWork Manitoba.
Switching to a welding wire with lower manganese content is one way to reduce exposure.
Another suggestion is to change the position of the welder or the work so that the welder is not directly in the welding plume. Work tables or jigs that tilt can significantly reduce worker exposure.
Local exhaust ventilation provides excellent fume extraction and general exhaust ventilation also dilutes and purges welding fumes from the shop air. In cases where other controls are impracticable, respiratory protection should be used by welders.
Info to go: Read more about welding gases and fumes hazards by clicking on the Info to Go safety links at www.SafeSupervisor.com
A numbered company in Alberta has been issued a whopping $350,000 fine in connection with a September 19, 2003 explosion that killed a worker in Edmonton.
A worker was welding in a tank when heat generated by his equipment ignited methane gas present in the vessel. The employee, who was thrown against the wall of the tank, died four days later in hospital.
The numbered company, operating as DJZ’s Welding at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to allowing hot work to be performed where a flammable substance could be present. The fine is one of the largest ever levied for an OHS offence in Alberta.
Info to go: For more information on welding, cutting and brazing safety, click on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
OSHA inspectors observed employees working at heights of 13 feet without fall protection on a two-tiered welded scaffold that was not fully planked. The lack of planking and fall protection resulted in two willful citations carrying $14,000 in fines. The inspection also found that the scaffold was unstable, missing required cross-bracing, located within 14 inches of live electrical wires, and had not been erected under the supervision of a competent person. Other hazards alleged by OSHA include a lack of head and foot protection, an uncovered hatchway, a ladder of inadequate height, and failure to train employees to recognize hazards associated with scaffolding work and ladders. Fines of $10,800 were proposed for those hazards. [Allstate Painting, Mount Vernon, NY. Release Number 07-854-NEAW. BOS 2007-157, June 13, 2007].Read More
Fines totaling $150,700 have been proposed for two willful and 21 serious alleged violations of federal workplace safety standards. OSHA opened an investigation in December 2006 after a worker’s thumb was amputated at a plant that manufactures metal stamping, fabricated metal products and welded assemblies. The two willful violations allege failure to provide point of operation guarding to the side and back sections of 18 mechanical power presses and failure to provide brake monitoring and control reliability for 15 mechanical presses where the operation required operators to perform hand-in die feeding. Alleged serious violations for which the company was cited include storing oxygen and acetylene gas cylinders together, failure to fully enclose or guard band saws, other machine guarding issues and failure to provide training, communication and certification on the energy control program for affected employees. [Kate Corp., Berea, OH. Release Number 07-764-CHI, June 4, 2007].Read More
Cappaert Manufactured Housing Inc. was cited for 43 serious violations while C&D Builders Inc. was cited for four serious violations. Inspections in January 2007 stemmed from OSHA’s Site Specific Targeting Program, which focuses on workplaces having high numbers of injuries and illnesses. Cappaert Manufactured Housing Inc. was cited for alleged hazards associated with falls, mobile work platforms, compressed air, lockout/tagout, operation of powered industrial trucks, flammable and combustible substances, overhead monorail hoists, lifting devices and slings, machine guards and welding and electrical issues. C&D Builders Inc. was cited for alleged hazards associated with falls, mobile work platforms, compressed air hazards and electrical issues. [Cappaert Manufactured Housing Inc., Vicksburg, MS and C&D Builders Inc., Vicksburg, MS. Release Number 07-968-ATL (177), July 24, 2007].Read More
Proposed fines totaling $187,150 have been issued to an industrial oven manufacturer following safety and health inspections. Two willful citations allege that the company failed to provide adequate fall protection and to evaluate hazards in confined spaces. Thirty-six serious citations allege machine guarding, fall protection, electrical, respiratory protection, fire extinguisher, welding and bloodborne pathogens issues. [International Thermal Systems, LLC, Milwaukee, WI. Release Number 07-1257-CHI, Sept. 4, 2007.]Read More
An Ohio steel company is feeling heat from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after allegedly failing to address hazards brought to its attention two years ago.
Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corp. of Steubenville, OH, is facing $210,000 in proposed penalties for 12 repeat violations and seven serious violations.
“OSHA will not tolerate employers who continue to willfully ignore safety hazards that have been brought to their attention. This continued disregard for the welfare of working people is inexcusable,” says Deborah Zubaty, OSHA’s area director in Columbus, OH.
The repeat violations allege failure to provide adequate electrical safety training and work-related safety practices to employees, along with failure to de-energize electrical equipment for servicing. It is also alleged that the company failed to provide flashback protection of cutting torch equipment; provide proper eyewash facilities; provide adequate standard railings on floors, runways and platforms and provide proper safety signs or ratings for crane lifting devices.
Serious violations include allegations of missing staircase railings; obstructed emergency exits; failure to provide annual hearing tests for all employees; failure to provide proper PPE and training; failure to properly inspect electrical parts for hazards before use and failure to provide proper insulated tools for working on energized electrical parts.
OSHA has been accepting public comments on a direct final rule that will update OSHA standards based on national consensus standards. The direct final rule addresses welding definitions, abrasive wheel specifications, floor and wall openings, railings and toe boards, marking of portable compressed gas cylinders and spray finishing.
“This rule is part of OSHA’s ongoing effort to update its regulatory references to consensus standards. The revisions will clarify employer obligations and maintain current levels of employee protection,” says OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke, Jr.
OSHA is deleting several references to consensus standards that have requirements that duplicate or are comparable to other OSHA rules.