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8/24/2009

OSHA Updates National Emphasis Program for Refineries

Safety


OSHA is updating its National Emphasis Program to continue the scheduled inspections from the prior NEP (CPL 03-00-004) that addresses catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals (HHC) at refineries. The large number of fatal or catastrophic incidents in the petroleum refining industry indicates the need for a national emphasis program.

Since the PSM standard was promulgated by OSHA in 1992, no other industry sector has had as many fatal or catastrophic incidents related to the release of HHC as the petroleum refining industry. According to OSHA’s IMIS database, since May 1992, 36 fatality/catastrophe (FAT/CAT) incidents related to HHC releases in the refining industry have occurred. These incidents included 52 employee deaths and 250 employee injuries, with 98 of these injuries requiring hospitalizations. The number of refinery FAT/CAT incidents surpasses the combined total of the next three highest industries over the same period: Chemical Manufacturing, Not Elsewhere Classified (NEC), SIC 2899; Industrial Organic Chemical Manufacturing, SIC 2869; and Explosive Manufacturing, SIC 2892.

Recent FAT/CAT incidents involving HHC releases at refineries include the massive explosion and fire at the BP America Refinery in Texas City, Texas, on March 23, 2005. During an isomerization unit startup at the refinery, a splitter tower was grossly overfilled with liquid hydrocarbons until the overpressure protection system released the hydrocarbons to a Blowdown drum and stack (Blowdown system). The relieving hydrocarbons then quickly over-filled the Blowdown system and caused the Blowdown stack to expel heavier-than-air hydrocarbon liquids and vapors into the atmosphere, resulting in the formation of an unconfined vapor cloud in and around the isomerization unit. The vapor cloud then ignited. The ensuing explosions and fires killed 15 employees and injured another 170. Placing non-essential employees in trailers too close to the isomerization unit substantially increased the incident’s severity.

On January 19, 2005, another refinery incident killed one employee and caused multiple injuries to other employees at the Kern Oil Refinery in Bakersfield, California. At the time of the incident, employees were starting-up the refinery’s crude unit and were isolating and cleaning a series of three prefractionator reboiler pumps. While using a pressurized steam line to clean the body of one of the pumps, workers overpressurized the pump casing which then catastrophically ruptured, releasing and igniting hot oil that immediately exploded.

At the Giant Industries Ciniza Refinery near Gallup, New Mexico, on April 8, 2004, six employees were injured, with 4 of these employees being hospitalized with serious burn injuries, when gasoline components were released and ignited. Maintenance workers were removing a malfunctioning pump from the refinery’s hydrofluoric acid (HF) alkylation unit when the release occurred. A shut-off valve connecting the pump to a distillation column was to be closed during the maintenance activity. This valve, however, was apparently left in an open position, leading to the release of flammable liquids and vapors which caused subsequent explosions.

The updated NEP includes contains policies and procedures to verify employers’ compliance with OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard, 29 CFR 1910.119.

Labor Secretary Solis Responds to Worker Fatality Decline in Fatal Occupational Injuries

In response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report announcing the preliminary Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries of 5,071 fatal work injuries in 2008—down from a total of 5,657 fatal work injuries reported in 2007—U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis has issued the following statement:

“With every one of these fatalities, the lives of a worker’s family members were shattered and forever changed. We can’t forget that fact.

While the decrease in the number of fatal work injuries represents change in the right direction, it does not lessen the need for strong enforcement to ensure that safety is a top priority in every workplace. In fact, today’s report prompts us to step up our vigilance, particularly as the economy regains momentum.

Working with both employers and employees, the Department of Labor will not be satisfied until there are no workplace deaths due to failure to comply with safety rules.”

Plan Now for Upcoming Influenza Season

New guidance, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been designed to help employers prepare now for the impact that seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza could have this fall and winter on their employees and operations.

Employers’ plans should address such points as encouraging employees with flu-like symptoms or illness to stay home, operating with reduced staffing, and possibly having employees who are at higher risk of serious medical complications from infection work from home, according to the CDC guidance.

It is not known whether the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus will cause more illness or more severe illness in the coming months, but the CDC recommends that everyone be prepared for influenza. Because seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza pose serious health threats, employers should work with employees to develop and implement plans that can reduce the spread of flu, and to encourage seasonal flu vaccination as well as H1N1 vaccination when that vaccine becomes available.

Department of Commerce (DOC) Secretary Locke suggested businesses set the right tone in the workplace. That means implementing common sense measures to reduce the risk of spreading the flu and encouraging workers who are sick to stay home.

“The President has mobilized the federal government to get America prepared,” DOC Secretary Locke said. “But government can’t do it alone. For this effort to be successful, we need the business community to do its part.” Making the right decisions will not only improve public health, it also has the potential to protect economic productivity: Employees who are sick and stay home will not spread the flu in the workplace.

“This new guidance will help our private sector partners continue to prepare for the upcoming flu season to keep our economy functioning and our critical infrastructure secure,” said Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Napolitano. “Ensuring business continuity is important to our cooperative efforts to keep Americans safe.”

There are many actions that can be taken to help reduce the spread of flu. The guidance notes the importance of using these actions, including regular and frequent hand washing and routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces.

“One of the most important things that employers can do is to make sure their human resources and leave policies are flexible and follow public health guidance,’’ said Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “If employees are sick, they need to be encouraged to stay home. If people begin to experience flu-like symptoms at work, they should be sent home and possibly encouraged to seek medical treatment.”

Employers should review sick leave policies and ensure employees understand them, according to the guidance. Employers should try to make sick leave policies flexible for workers who may have to stay home with ill family members or if a child’s school is closed, the CDC says.

Employers should consider offering vaccine against seasonal flu, and encourage employees to be vaccinated against seasonal and H1N1 flu, the guidance says.

Employers also might cancel non-essential face-to-face meetings and travel, and space employees farther apart, the report says. And employees who are at higher risk for flu complications might be allowed to work from home or stay home if the flu is severe, it says.

“Keeping our nation’s workers safe is a top priority,” said Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, who participated in the announcement. “Faced with a renewed H1N1 challenge during the coming flu season, we are developing tools that will help ensure America’s workers stay healthy and our businesses remain viable.”

For more information, see www.flu.gov.

OSHA Urges Construction Companies to Take Action to Prevent Worker Falls

Following four fatal construction accidents that recently took place in southwestern Pennsylvania, OSHA is calling on construction companies to ensure that employees working above six feet have the proper equipment to protect themselves from falls on the job.

“Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry,” says Robert Szymanski, director of the Pittsburgh OSHA office. “These recent accidents in Allegheny and Washington counties are tragic reminders of the dangers posed to workers when adequate protection is not provided.”

There are a number of ways to protect workers from falls including guardrail systems, safety net systems and personal fall arrest systems, including properly anchored body harnesses and lanyards, as well as through the use of safe work practices and training. OSHA’s website includes information about fall protection.

Advisory Committee Wants Comment on Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for 19 Hazardous Substances

The National Advisory Committee for Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Hazardous Substances (NAC/AEGL Committee) is developing Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs) on an ongoing basis to provide Federal, State, and local agencies with information on short-term exposures to hazardous substances. A notice in the August 19, Federal Register, includes a list of 19 proposed AEGLs that are available for public review and comment. Comments must be received on or before September 18, 2009, and are welcome on both the proposed AEGLs and their Technical Support Documents included in the docket.

Chemical Name

CAS Number

1,2-Butylene oxide

106-88-7

Bromoacetone

598-31-2

Cyanogen

460-19-5

Ethylbenzene

100-41-4

Ethylisocyanate

109-90-0

Ethylphosphorodichloridate

1498-51-7

Germane

7782-65-2

Malathion

121-75-5

Methylisothiocyanate

556-61-6

Methylparathion

298-00-0

n-Butyl isocyanate

111-36-4

Nitrogentrifluoride

7783-54-2

Nitrogentetroxide

10544-72-6

Parathion

56-38-2

Phenyl isocyanate

103-71-9

Phorate

298-02-2

t-Octyl mercaptan

141-59-3

Tear gas

2698-41-1

Trimethylacetyl chloride

3282-30-2

See the Federal Register notice for more information on accessing the docket information and on how to submit comments.

National Advisory Committee for Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Hazardous Substances to Meet September 9-11

The National Advisory Committee for Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Hazardous Substances (NAC/AEGL) will be meeting on September 9-11, 2009. The NAC/AEGL Committee will address, as time permits, aspects of the acute toxicity and the development of Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs) for the following chemicals: cadmium; carbofuran; carbon dioxide; dichlorovos; dicrotophos; dimethyl phosphate; fenamiphos; gasoline; hydrogen selenide; lead; methamidophos; methyl iodide; mevinphos; monocrotophos; nerve agent GB; phosgene; phosphamidon; red phosphorus; ricin; tetrachloroethylene; 1,1,1-trichloroethylene; and trimethylphosphite.

The meeting may be of interest to anyone who may be affected by the AEGL values that may be adopted by government agencies for emergency planning, prevention, or response programs (e.g., EPA’s Risk Management Program under the Clean Air Act and Amendments Section 112(r)).

The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on September 9, 2009; from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on September 10, 2009; and from 8 a.m. until noon on September 11, 2009. The meeting will be held at EPA’s Main Campus in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. See the notice of the meeting for more information.

Fourth Annual Drug-Free Work Week Slated for October 19-25, 2009

A drug-free workplace program is a vital component of a safe workplace. From October 19-25, 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will stage its annual Drug-Free Work Week, dedicated to communicating the importance of working drug-free.

The week is sponsored by DOL’s Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace program, but its true spirit is found at the local level in activities conducted by various organizations and in individual workplaces across the country. To get resources and specific ideas on how your organization can support the week’s activities, visit the Drug-Free Work Week website.

More than $576,000 in Penalties Proposed for Sims Bark and Sims Stone Plants in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi

OSHA is proposing $576,750 in penalties against Sims Bark Co. and Sims Stone Co. for 142 workplace safety and health violations. OSHA is proposing 20 violations and $94,400 in penalties for the company’s bark plant in Brent, Alabama; 59 violations and $260,900 in penalties for the bark and stone plants in Tuscumbia, Alabama; 49 violations and $142,350 in penalties for the bark and stone plants in Woodbury, Georgia; and 14 violations and $79,100 in penalties for the bark plant in Olive Branch, Mississippi. Inspections began after OSHA received a complaint and determined that similar hazards might exist at other locations of the two companies.

Willful citations are being issued against the Brent, Tuscumbia, and Olive Branch bark plants and the Tuscumbia stone plant for allowing workers to service, unjam, and clean machinery without procedures to ensure that workers won’t be caught in or struck by equipment or burned by machines’ heat strips. In addition, Tuscumbia bark plant employees worked without needed fall protection. At the Woodbury bark plant, workers who operated a machine with an unenclosed belt were exposed to dangers associated with being caught in the fast moving machinery. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

Serious citations are being issued against all of the plants, including the Woodbury stone plant. Identified hazards involve lack of employee training, exposure to electric shocks, lack of fall protection, lack of machine guards, exposure to noise hazards, struck-by dangers and accumulations of combustible dust. A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The agency is issuing other-than-serious violations against all of the locations for failing to keep workplace injury logs according to OSHA rules.

“Sims Bark and Sims Stone management have displayed a systemic indifference to the safety and health of their own employees, resulting in a dangerous work environment,” said Cindy Coe, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The sites were inspected by staff from OSHA’s Birmingham, Alabama, Jackson, Mississippi, and Atlanta-West Area Offices.

OSHA Proposes $138,000 in Penalties for BAE Systems Inc., Following Site Inspection

OSHA has cited BAE Systems Inc., with 16 alleged serious and two alleged repeat violations of federal health and safety regulations following an inspection at the company’s facility in Sealy, Texas. Proposed penalties total $138,000.

“Employees should not be exposed to safety and health hazards,” said Eric Harbin, area director of OSHA’s Austin Area Office. “In this case, this employer failed to protect its employees from multiple machine guarding and compressed air hazards.”

OSHA’s Austin Area Office began its investigation February 19 on as part of OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting inspection list. Some of the serious violations include failing to ensure walking working surfaces remained clear; failing to provide safe clearances for material handling equipment; failing to provide machine guarding; and violations related to the control of hazardous energy, welding, and electrical hazards.

Repeat violations were for failing to guard press brakes and to ensure compressed air used for cleaning had pressures reduced below 30 psi. OSHA defines a repeat violation as one where the employer previously has been cited for the same or similar hazard within the past three years.

OSHA Cites Texas Construction Contractor More than $100,000 Following Electrocution Fatality

OSHA has cited Texas-based Thedford Construction Co. Inc., with two alleged willful and 10 alleged serious violations following the electrocution death of a Hispanic worker at the company’s worksite in Tyler, Texas. Proposed penalties total $133,000.

OSHA’s Dallas Area Office began its inspection on February 18 on Hidden Lake Drive in Tyler, where eight employees were upgrading underground energized power lines and pad-mounted transformers. While digging in front of a pad-mounted transformer, the employer damaged an underground power line. One of the Hispanic workers, who was unaware and uninformed that the power line was energized, began repairing the line and was electrocuted. Additionally, the investigation revealed the worker was wearing a glove with a hole in the index finger that had not been tested for insulation qualities.

“All workers, regardless of whether or not they speak English, deserve a safe workplace. Had this company implemented the requirements contained in their own safety and health program this tragedy could have been avoided,” said Stephen Boyd, OSHA’s area director in Dallas. “Ultimately Thedford Construction failed to ensure that its workers were protected from approaching and contacting energized, high voltage electrical equipment.”

The willful violations were for failing to electrically test rubber insulated gloves at intervals not exceeding six months and failing to ensure that workers do not approach energized electrical equipment closer than two feet.

Serious violations included failing to train workers on the dangers of electrical hazards, provide prompt medical treatment in the event of serious injuries, provide a person with a valid certificate to perform first-aid treatment, provide PPE, and for failing to determine the exact location of underground installations by a safe and acceptable means.

OSHA Levies $76,500 in Proposed Penalties Against Ohio-based S&N Pallets Inc.

OSHA has cited S&N Pallets Inc., in East Sparta, Ohio, with proposed penalties totaling $76,500 for alleged willful and serious violations of federal workplace safety and health standards.

OSHA conducted a comprehensive safety and health inspection and found that a worker had three fingers amputated from an un-guarded sidewinder band saw. The company was cited for an alleged willful violation with a proposed penalty of $28,000 for failing to provide adequate machine guarding on the sidewinder band saw.

The company also was cited for serious violations with proposed penalties of $48,000 for failing to ensure explosive wood dust was removed from electrical conduit boxes, structural support beams, and other surfaces that could be an explosive hazard. Serious citations were also issued for lack of proper employee equipment, training and testing for hearing conservation, and for a lack of proper electrical protective equipment for employees working in and around electrical hazards.

The company was also cited $500 for improper accident logs.

“It is extremely important that companies ensure safety and health procedures are initiated and enforced in order to prevent accidents such as amputations or dust explosions,” said Deborah Zubaty, OSHA area director in Columbus, Ohio. “OSHA’s intention and purpose is to make sure workers return home, safe and healthy, at the end of every shift.”

S&N Pallets Inc., which employs 30 workers, makes and reconditions pallets. The company has been cited by OSHA 12 times at various locations in Ohio, including similar OSHA citations in 1984 and 1989 for failing to provide proper guarding on band saws. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Trans Western Polymers Inc., Fined Almost $50,000 for Failure to Provide Adequate Machine Guarding

OSHA has cited Trans Western Polymers Inc., for workplace safety and health violations with proposed fines totaling $49,500.

As a result of an investigation, the company was cited a willful citation with a penalty of $49,500 for points of operation not being guarded on bag conversion machines.

“The safety of workers operating bag conversion machines should not be compromised due to avoidable hazards,” said Mark Stelmack, director of OSHA’s area office in Wilkes-Barre where the investigation was initiated after a complaint was received.

Trans Western Polymers, which employs about 270 workers, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The investigation was conducted by OSHA’s Wilkes-Barre Office.

DTR Tennessee, Inc., in Midway, Receives Two Safety Awards in Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development’s Commissioner, James Neeley, announced that DTR Tennessee, Inc., in Midway was chosen to receive the Commissioner’s Award of Excellence and the Volunteer STAR (Safety Through Accountability and Recognition) award. The company has received both awards for the first time.

“DTR Tennessee Incorporated has met the evaluation standards required to receive these awards by proving their ability to uphold an excellent safety record,” said James Neeley, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, who presented the Commissioner’s Award and the Volunteer STAR award to the company along with Deputy Governor John Morgan. “It is evident that DTR Tennessee is extremely dedicated to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.”

The Commissioner’s Award honors Tennessee employers and their employees who together have achieved a required number of hours worked without experiencing a lost workday case and have maintained total injury and illness incidence rates below the national average. The number of hours required to receive the award is based on the size of the company.

DTR Tennessee, Inc.—Midway employs 873 people and is a manufacturer of rubber products used primarily in the production of automobiles. The facility has qualified for the Commissioner’s Award by working more than one-million hours without a lost time or injury.

The Volunteer STAR award is the state’s highest honor for workplace safety and health and a nationally recognized program. The Volunteer STAR is patterned after the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) and recognizes the best of the best in the area of safety and health programming and performance.

For the three-year period 2006-2008, the site’s safety record is as follows:

  • Three-year Total Case Incidence Rate (TCIR) is 2.21 which is 68% below the current Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) industry average
  • Three-year Days Away from Work and Restricted Activity and/or Transfer Incidence Rate (DART) rate is 0.54 which is 87% below the current BLS industry average

A certificate of recognition is awarded to the STAR recipient, as is a flag that can be flown at the site. The company is also permitted to use the Volunteer STAR logo on its correspondence and company documents.

The standard for participation in the STAR program is the confirmation of a company’s safety and health program, which helps reduce accidents and injuries. The program also allows employers to be removed from programmed compliance inspection lists for a period of three years.

For more information on the Volunteer STAR award program and other TOSHA award programs contact TOSHA’s Consultative Services office at (800) 325-9901.

DTR Tennessee, Inc., in Tazewell, Receives Volunteer Star Safety Award

Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner James Neeley announced that DTR Tennessee, Inc., in Tazewell was chosen to receive the Volunteer STAR (Safety Through Accountability and Recognition) award for the first time.

“DTR Tennessee, Incorporated has met the evaluation standards required to receive this award by proving their ability to uphold an excellent safety record,” said James Neeley, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, who presented the Volunteer STAR award to the company. “It is evident that DTR Tennessee is extremely dedicated to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.”

The Volunteer STAR award is the state’s highest honor for workplace safety and health and a nationally recognized program. The Volunteer STAR is patterned after the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) and recognizes the best of the best in the area of safety and health programming and performance.

For the three-year period 2006-2008, the site’s safety record is as follows:

  • Three-year Total Case Incidence Rate (TCIR) is 3.46 which is 51% below the current Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) industry average
  • Three-year Days Away from Work and Restricted Activity and/or Transfer Incidence Rate (DART) rate is 1.27 which is 69% below the current BLS industry averages

DTR Tennessee, Inc., in Tazewell employs 405 people and is a manufacturer of rubber products used primarily in the production of automobiles.

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