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6/18/2007

OSHA Implements National Emphasis Program in the Petrochemical Industry

Safety


OSHA has published a directive implementing a national emphasis program to help eliminate workplace hazards associated with the release of highly hazardous chemicals at petroleum refineries.

"OSHA remains committed to enhancing the safety and health of America's men and women working in the refining industry," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "By initiating this program, we are taking positive steps to maximize the protection of employees and eliminate workplace hazards at petroleum refineries."

Under this program, OSHA will conduct 81 inspections over the next two years. However, the program is just one of multiple significant enforcement projects in the oil, gas, and refining industries on which OSHA is working.

OSHA also has two regional emphasis programs operating in Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico that focus on reducing workplace injuries and fatalities in the oil and gas well drilling, and petrochemical industries. Process safety management has been an OSHA priority for many years, and a number of emphasis programs have evolved as a result of this standard. This national emphasis program will provide guidance to OSHA national, regional, and area offices as well as states that choose to implement similar programs.

For additional references to documents used for process safety in the refining and chemical industries, see OSHA's PSM Safety and Help Topics webpage. Topics include equipment design, in-service practices, and other important aspects of process safety.

OSHA Announces 'Swept Up in Safety Week' to Occur Unannounced Four Times this Year

OSHA will conduct one "Swept Up in Safety Week," without prior notice, during each quarter of this calendar year. These weeks are aimed at reducing an upward trend in construction-related fatalities in the Southeast, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. OSHA compliance officers will focus enforcement efforts on construction sites throughout the region.

The "Swept Up in Safety Week" series is intended to identify and fix safety hazards, thereby reducing exposure to the four leading causes of employee fatalities in the Southeast: falls, "struck-by" objects and vehicles, crushing, and electrocutions. OSHA compliance officers also will stop by construction sites when they happen to see conditions that are "in compliance" in an effort to recognize and further encourage the safe behaviors of those employers.

"OSHA's goal is to raise awareness about the safety hazards that lead to employee deaths," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "Our compliance officers will conduct immediate inspections when they observe unsafe scaffolds, fall risks, trenches, and other construction hazards, and also will stop to recognize compliance-oriented employers."

"OSHA's previous 'Swept Up in Safety Weeks' were conducted in December 2006 and March 2007, and were very successful in eliminating hazardous conditions and raising the awareness of employers," Coe emphasized.

OSHA has several special emphasis programs that allow immediate inspections when safety and health hazards are observed at a worksite. The programs also include separate outreach, education, and training components that encourage employers and employees to visit the agency's Web site or to call an OSHA office for information about providing safe and healthy worksites.

CSB Issues Safety Bulletin on Dangers of a Major Chlorine Release

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a safety bulletin warning that some chlorine railcar transfer systems lack effective detection and emergency shutdown devices, leaving the public vulnerable to potential large-scale toxic releases.

The CSB formally recommended that the U.S. DOT expand its regulatory coverage to require facilities that unload chlorine railcars to install remotely operated emergency isolation devices to quickly shut down the flow of chlorine in the event of a hose rupture or other failure in the unloading equipment. The safety bulletin cites two previous incidents of accidental chlorine releases that occurred as a result of ruptured transfer hoses.

Chlorine railcars are equipped with an internal excess flow valve (EFV) that is designed to stop the flow of chlorine if an external valve breaks off while the railcar is in transit. However, these EFVs are not designed to stop leaks during railcar unloading, and the failure of a transfer hose may not activate the EFV and the toxic chlorine will continue to escape. Companies should install emergency shutdown systems that can quickly stop the flow of chlorine if a hose ruptures during the unloading operation, the bulletin said.

In August 2002 a hose ruptured at a DPC Enterprises plant near Festus, Missouri. The emergency shutdown valves did not close as designed due to poor maintenance, and the EFV did not close. The only way to stop the release of chlorine from the railcar was to send emergency responders through a four-foot deep yellowish-green fog of chlorine vapor to manually close shutdown valves located on top of the railcar. Incidents such as the one at DPC demonstrate why EFVs should not be relied upon to stop hazardous material releases during unloading operations.

However, in a survey of drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities conducted by the CSB, investigators found that approximately 30 percent of the bulk chlorine users contacted continue to rely solely on the EFV to stop chlorine flow in the event of a transfer hose rupture.

The DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) regulate transportation of hazardous materials by rail, aircraft, vessel, and motor vehicle tank truck and currently require emergency shutdown equipment for motor vehicle tank truck chlorine transfer systems but not for railcar chlorine transfer systems.

Board member John Bresland said, "Chlorine is a very useful but a highly toxic substance that needs appropriate safeguards to prevent releases and protect the public. Our safety bulletin reveals the importance of expanding current regulatory coverage to chlorine railcar unloading operations."

The safety bulletin compares two chlorine releases from railcars that were investigated by the CSB. The first incident, discussed briefly above, involved a 48,000 pound release of chlorine at DPC Enterprises due to a ruptured transfer hose. As a result hundreds of residents were evacuated or were required to shelter in place, 63 residents sought medical attention and three were admitted to the hospital. The second incident occurred in August 2005 at Honeywell International's Baton Rouge chemical plant when chlorine began to escape from a railcar due to a transfer hose failure. There, the emergency shutdown system functioned properly and the release lasted less than one minute. There was no impact to the surrounding community.

Investigator Lisa Long said, "In contrast to the 2002 incident at DPC, the rapid and successful activation of the emergency shutdown system at Honeywell prevented a major release and limited off-site impacts to the surrounding community."

The CSB recommendation calls on DOT to expand regulatory coverage to require railcar unloading operations to have the following safeguards:

  • Remotely operated isolation devices that will quickly isolate a leak in any of the flexible hoses used to unload a chlorine car
  • The shutdown system must be capable of stopping a chlorine release from both the railcar and the equipment at the facility receiving the chlorine
  • Periodic maintenance and operational testing of the emergency isolation system to ensure it will function in the event of an unloading system chlorine leak

Although the incidents described below do not directly deal with chlorine railcar unloading operations they do indicate the severe hazards to the public in the event of a chlorine railcar leak and the importance of transporting and transfer of this deadly but useful chemical safely. These transportation incidents have been investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

  • June 28, 2004 - The collision of two trains near Macdona, Texas caused a release of liquefied chlorine from one of the train's tank cars. The chlorine vaporized, engulfed the area and led to the deaths of the train conductor and two local residents.
  • January 6, 2005 - In Graniteville, South Carolina, a Norfolk Southern train collided with a stationary train, leading to a derailment, and the release of an estimated 120,000 pounds of chlorine. The derailment and resulting chlorine release caused 9 deaths, led to over 500 persons seeking medical treatment for possible chlorine exposure and the mandatory evacuation of over 5,000 residents.

Dean McDaniel Named New OSHA Region VI Administrator

OSHA has appointed Dean McDaniel as Region VI administrator. McDaniel, a veteran of OSHA for 32 years, of which eight were spent as the assistant regional administrator for Region VI, will lead OSHA's policy implementation in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

"Dean's extensive safety, health, and management experience will help him succeed as he continues OSHA's strong, fair, and effective enforcement; outreach, education, and compliance assistance; and cooperative and voluntary programs throughout Region VI," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. "Through these efforts, employers and employees will better understand how OSHA adds value to their business, work, and life."

Prior to this appointment, McDaniel served as a special assistant to the assistant secretary of OSHA from December 2004 to May 2007. During that time, he led the agency-wide effort to develop the OSHA Information System (OIS). OIS will replace the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) that was implemented in 1992.

Before joining OSHA's National Office in Washington, D.C., McDaniel served as the assistant regional administrator for federal and state operations in OSHA's Dallas Regional Office, overseeing OSHA's compliance activities in Texas and surrounding states. McDaniel has held several other positions with OSHA, including area director of the Dallas and Lubbock, Texas, offices, and as a field industrial hygienist in the Kansas City, Mo., and Oklahoma City, Okla., area offices.

OSHA Partnership Helps Reduce Ergonomic Injuries at the U.S. Postal Service

U.S. Postal Service employees are experiencing fewer ergonomic injuries as a result of a 2003 partnership between OSHA, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The organizations have released Examples of Good Ergonomics Practices at the U.S. Postal Service that outlines the achievements of the partnership and the steps taken to help prevent ergonomic-related injuries in the workplace.

"By bringing management, unions, and employees together to cooperatively identify potential hazards and ergonomic health risks, the Postal Service, through this partnership, is transforming its workplace safety and health ergonomic program into a model for both the public and private sector," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. "Through identification and resolution of ergonomic risks, the Postal Service has saved $1.8 million in workers’ compensation costs and has had a 38 percent reduction in the musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) recordable rate."

The document illustrates several examples that could have resulted in an ergonomic-related injury and the proactive measures taken to correct the situation before a workplace injury occurred. Several of the protective measures cost less than $100 to implement.

Once the ergonomic risk reduction process (ERRP) is initiated, an ergonomist uses the 10-step process to identify jobs with high rates of MSDs. Those jobs are then broken down into tasks and steps. The ergonomic risk is then linked to the steps before identifying an implementation plan, obtaining feedback, and determining the cost to implement the solution.

The ERRP is successful because it is a systematic process with clearly defined goals. Using ERRP improves mail flow and leads to improved morale, a better trained workforce, and assigns individual responsibility for job improvements.

OSHA Fines Guam Construction Company $49,200 for Safety Violations

OSHA has cited a construction company for alleged safety violations during work at the Asan Pump Station site in Asan, Guam, following an inspection last December.

OSHA cited Guam-based Fargo Pacific Inc. for one willful violation, with proposed penalties of $42,000, for failing to provide adequate cave-in protection. OSHA has cited the employer in the past, issuing 77 serious and 13 repeat violations.

OSHA also assessed a total of $7,200 in proposed penalties for three serious violations for failing to provide safe means of egress for employees working in a 12-foot deep, 33-foot long trench; failing to prevent materials falling into the trench while employees worked; and failing to inspect the excavations daily.

"Fargo Pacific failed to follow basic safety and health requirements for its employees," said Christopher Lee, acting regional administrator for OSHA in San Francisco. "Lack of compliance with OSHA rules, such as the violations our inspector witnessed, poses the threat of serious injury or death to one or more of the employees."

OSHA Introduces New Safety and Health Topics Page Module

OSHA and the Safe Tank Alliance have joined together to develop a storage tanks module to the Oil and Gas Well Drilling, Servicing and Storage Safety and Health Topics page. The module addresses requirements and solutions for working in permit and non-permit required confined space in above ground storage tanks.

"It is imperative that employers and employees learn proper safety techniques for working in that type of environment due to the potential hazards that storage tank work entails," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. "The module contains useful information relevant to the petrochemical industry. It provides examples of hazards and possible abatement methods associated with that industry."

The module was developed as a product of the safe tank alliance between OSHA, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Fire Protection Association, and the Steel Tank Institute.

OSHA Forms New York Safety Alliance with Hispanics in Real Estate and Construction

OSHA and the Hispanics in Real Estate and Construction (HREC) have formed an alliance with the goal of helping New York small businesses provide safe work environments for their employees, particularly Hispanics and teenagers.

Under the alliance, OSHA and HREC will develop and deliver training and education programs focusing on such workplace hazards as falls, electrocution, being struck by or caught in or between machinery, amputations, hazardous materials and chemicals. These programs will include presentations of OSHA's 10-hour construction and general industry courses in English and Spanish. HREC members who speak both English and Spanish will be encouraged to complete OSHA's train-the-trainer courses so they can teach these courses in both languages.

"This alliance is an opportunity to reach employees who may not know how to identify and prevent common workplace hazards," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Equipping employees with that knowledge, and the ability to impart that knowledge to others, will help prevent injuries and illnesses."

"OSHA will work with the HREC, as well as faith-based and community-based organizations, to increase safety and health awareness within New York's Hispanic community," said Diana Cortez, OSHA's regional Hispanic outreach coordinator and director of the agency's Tarrytown Area Office.

The alliance was signed April 28 by Peter Fontanes, chairman, and Bridget Gonzalez, president, HREC; OSHA's Clark and Cortez; and OSHA Area Directors Christopher Adams (Syracuse), Arthur Dube (Buffalo), Edward Jerome (Albany), Patricia Jones (Long Island), Robert Kulick (Avenel, N.J.) and Richard Mendelson (Manhattan).

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