CONVEYOR HAZARDS AT CVS PHARMACY LEAD TO NEARLY $62,000 IN OSHA FINES

January 09, 2003
Unguarded conveyor belts that exposed workers at a Worcester, Mass., CVS Pharmacy to possible fractures and crushing injuries have resulted in $61,575 in fines from OSHA.

OSHA's inspection of the pharmacy, initiated Nov. 8 in response to a complaint, found that a conveyor belt used to move product between the basement and a first floor storage area lacked guarding to prevent employees from coming in contact with its pinch points. According to Ronald E. Morin, OSHA's area director for central and western Massachusetts, two workers in the Worcester store were injured by the unguarded machinery earlier this year.

"What's significant is that CVS was cited for the same hazard at its Danvers, Mass., store in August 2001 and agreed to fix the problem but was again cited in November 2001 for failing to do so," said Morin. "As a result, we're citing the company for an alleged willful violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and proposing a fine of $55,000."

The inspection also found that employees were not instructed on how to prevent accidental startups of the conveyor belt while clearing product jams and the company lacked written instructions for doing so. Employees also faced tripping hazards from material stored directly in front of the conveyor. These conditions resulted in three alleged serious violations with $6,375 in proposed fines.

A fine of $200 was proposed for an alleged repeat violation for blocked access to electrical panels. OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer has previously been cited for a substantially similar hazard. CVS had been cited in September 2000 for a similar hazard at a Scotia, N.Y., store.

CVS has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




MDF PLANT ISSUED $169,000 IN PROPOSED PENALTIES FOR SAFETY VIOLATIONS

The failure of a Montana employer to protect employees working on a conveyor system has resulted in $169,000 in proposed penalties issued against the Plum Creek MDF plant in Columbia Falls, following an investigation by OSHA into a fatal accident at the plant in July.

OSHA's Billings area office issued one willful, eight serious, two repeat and one failure-to-correct citation following an investigation that began on July 11. The conveyor accident at the plant took the life of an employee with Workplace Inc., a company that supplies manpower to the Plum Creek facility. Workplace Inc. was not cited.

"This accident and the unsafe conditions discovered during the inspection could have been avoided by adherence to recognized safe work practices and OSHA regulations," said David DiTommaso, OSHA area director in Billings.

Plum Creek was cited for one willful violation for equipment lock out hazards including failure to de-energize equipment before employees worked on it, not locking equipment out of service and not having authorized employees perform machinery lock outs. A $70,000 fine is proposed for this violation.

OSHA also found two alleged repeat violations for failure to protect employees from hazardous parts on conveyors and unguarded chains and sprockets and assessed penalties of $37,500 for those violations.

Eight alleged serious violations address their failure to: provide emergency stops on conveyors and alarms for conveyors that start automatically; provide fall protection for employees working above dangerous equipment; provide identifiable locks used for lockouts along with lockout training; verify that equipment was de-energized before working on it; provide guarded projecting shaft ends, belts and pulleys; and using compressed air for cleaning purposes in excess of safe pressure. The penalty for the serious violations totaled $31,500.

A total of $30,000 in penalties also was proposed for Plumb Creek's failure to correct a previous citation that had required the company to prepare written machinery lockout procedures.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A repeat violation occurs when a previously cited hazard is corrected but allowed to re occur. A serious violation is one where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Plum Creek has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




OSHA PROPOSES REVISION TO COMMERCIAL DIVING STANDARD

Recreational diving instructors and diving guides would be allowed to use alternatives to an on-site decompression chamber under OSHA's proposed amendment to its Commercial Diving Operations standard. The proposal was published in the January 10, 2003 Federal Register.

The proposed changes to the standard would allow these particular divers the opportunity to use nitrox breathing gas under specified conditions, thereby making a decompression chamber near the dive site unnecessary. The changes impact recreational divers who rely on self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) and dive at depths of 130 feet or less. The revision does not change requirements for commercial divers who do not regularly use SCUBA gear due to the nature of their work and the length of time they must spend underwater.

"The diving industry has developed innovative diving methods and procedures that have helped prevent and treat diving accidents such as decompression sickness and embolism," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "By relieving many of the industry's employers of an unnecessary regulatory requirement, we believe our proposed revision will help them focus even more on the safety and health of their workers."

In nitrox diving, a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen gases replaces compressed air as the breathing gas. The partial pressure of nitrogen (the gas that causes decompression sickness) in the gas mixture is lower than compressed air, and that lower pressure allows the diver to remain longer at specified depths without developing decompression sickness or embolism upon surfacing.

OSHA is basing its proposal on a variance granted to Florida-based Dixie Divers, Inc. in 1999. That variance exempted Dixie from OSHA's decompression-chamber requirements for recreational diving instructors and diving guides, under the same conditions mentioned above. The proposal will incorporate the terms and conditions of that variance into the standard itself.

Comments on the proposed revisions must be submitted by Apr. 10, 2003. To submit comments by regular mail, express delivery, hand delivery or messenger service, send three copies and attachments to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. S 550, Room N2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. You may also fax comments (10 pages or fewer) to OSHA's Docket Office at (202) 693-1648. Include the docket number in your comments. Finally, comments may be submitted electronically through the Internet at http://ecomments.osha.gov. Further information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.




OSHA EXTENDS COMMENT PERIOD ON STANDARDS IMPROVEMENT PROJECT

OSHA announced it is extending until Jan. 30, 2003, the period for comments on the second phase of its standards improvement project.

OSHA first proposed the revisions on Oct. 31. The original comment period was scheduled to end Dec. 30, 2002; however, numerous parties have requested an extension to provide a thorough review and response to the substantive provisions proposed for changes. Those parties were notified of the extension before the end of last year.

The project addresses 40 provisions in 23 health standards for general industry, maritime and construction that are inconsistent, duplicative, or outdated. The changes in the standards are expected to reduce the regulatory burdens on employers while maintaining the safety and health protections afforded to employees.

OSHA first made several substantive revisions in 1998 to its health and safety standards. The agency has since identified other regulatory provisions involving notification of use, frequency of exposure monitoring and medical surveillance, and similar provisions that may be unnecessary or ineffective in protecting worker safety and health.

Persons wishing to comment, should send three copies of their comments, postmarked not later than Jan. 30, 2003, to: Docket Office, Docket S-778-A, Room N2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. Comments of 10 pages or less may be faxed to the Docket Office at (202) 693-1648.

Comments may also be submitted electronically to http://ecomments.osha.gov. Further information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.


The comment period extension was announced in the Jan. 8, 2003, Federal
Register.




CSB SAFETY ADVISORY CALLS FOR VALIDATION OF CHLORINE TRANSFER HOSES

Finding that the use of an incorrect hose led to an August 2002 chlorine leak near St. Louis, a new safety advisory issued by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) calls on other chlorine users to verify the materials of construction of their chlorine transfer hoses.

The advisory grows out of an August 14, 2002, chlorine release at DPC Enterprises in Festus, Missouri. In that incident, a transfer hose failed catastrophically during the unloading of a chlorine rail car. Due to the malfunction of an automatic shutdown system, the leak continued unabated for several hours, eventually causing the release of about 48,000 pounds of toxic chlorine gas. Sixty-three people, including workers and nearby residents, sought hospital treatment as the result of the leak.

Subsequent analysis showed that the transfer hose was constructed with braided stainless steel -- a material that is not recommended for chlorine service -- despite documentation from the hose distributor indicating that the hose was made of a chlorine-resistant alloy. The two kinds of braiding are visually indistinguishable. The hose that failed had evidently been degraded by the flow of chlorine, which is a strong corrosive, and had been in service for just 59 days when the failure occurred.

"Chlorine handlers should ensure that any nonmetallic-lined chlorine transfer hoses they use are constructed with the appropriate structural braiding layer, either PVDF monofilament or Hastelloy C-276," stated CSB lead investigator John Murphy, citing a recommended safety practice of the Chlorine Institute. "Nondestructive testing methods such as X-ray fluorescence can be used to positively differentiate between Hastelloy C-276, the intended material, and 316 L stainless steel, the use of which can lead to catastrophic hose failure."

"The incident at DPC Enterprises underscores the very serious consequences that can ensue from chlorine hose rupture," according to CSB Chairman Carolyn W. Merritt. "Chlorine users should treat this incident as a wake-up call to verify that their hoses are what they think they are. The Board requests that any person who determines that a chlorine transfer hose has been misidentified - or who experiences a related hose failure -- please contact the agency as soon as possible."

The Chemical Safety Board has not completed its final report on the DPC incident. That report, expected in the next several months, will include a final determination of causes together with safety recommendations to prevent recurrences. The CSB is providing this Safety Advisory, available from http://www.csb.gov, as a precautionary measure for chlorine users. For further information contact Giby Joseph at (202) 261-7633.