ELECTRICAL SAFETY HAZARDS BRING $82,500 IN FINES TO NURSING HOME

February 20, 2003
A Warsaw, New York, nursing home's failure to correct electrical safety hazards has resulted in an additional $82,500 in proposed fines from OSHA.

OSHA first cited Manor Oak Life Center - Warsaw in July of last year for 26 safety and health violations. At that time, $44,000 in fines were proposed for bloodborne pathogen, lead, electrical, corrosive liquid, gas cylinder and permit required confined space hazards.

OSHA began a follow-up inspection in August after Manor Oak failed to show that the cited hazards had been corrected. That inspection found that two electrical hazards remained outstanding. Specifically, employees had not been trained in electrical safety related work practices and exposed openings in electrical boxes remained uncovered. As a result, OSHA has proposed an additional $77,500 in fines against Manor Oak for its failure to abate these hazards.

The follow-up inspection identified two additional electrical hazards involving a lack of safe procedures for de-energizing electrical circuits and equipment and failure to lock and tag out electrical equipment in accordance with OSHA standards. For these items, $5,000 in fines are proposed.

OSHA issues a failure to abate notice when a subsequent inspection shows that an employer failed to correct a violation that has since become final. A serious violation is defined as a condition that exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

Manor Oak Life Center - Warsaw 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.




CIVIL PENALTIES RISE FOR MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH VIOLATIONS

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has raised civil penalty fines for all mine safety and health violations by just over 10 percent. The increase, effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, complies with a Congressional mandate that agencies make periodic inflation adjustments in their civil penalties.

"The law provides MSHA with three major tools -- enforcement, education and training, and technical assistance," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave D. Lauriski. "Civil penalties are an important aspect of enforcement, which is part of what we call our Triangle of Success. Using all the tools provided by law, we are working to make safety a value throughout the mining industry so that we can send every miner home safe and healthy at the end of every working shift."

Under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, MSHA inspectors must issue a citation for each violation of a health or safety standard they encounter. The penalty amount is determined by several factors the law prescribes, including the size of the mine, severity of the violation, degree of negligence and good faith to correct the violation.

The "single penalty" assessment for non-serious violations that are corrected promptly will rise from $55 to $60, and the existing maximum daily penalty will rise from $5,500 to $6,500 for failure to correct a violation within the period permitted. The maximum civil penalty will increase from $55,000 to $60,000 per violation. Civil penalties for miners who violate mandatory safety standards relating to the use or carrying of smoking materials will continue to be assessed at $275.

The rule was published in the Federal Register February 10, 2003 and may be viewed on MSHA's website at
http://www.msha.gov/regs/fedreg/fianl/2003finl/03-3160.htm




OSHA FINES POULTRY PLANT $50,000 FOR EXPOSING WORKERS TO FALL HAZARDS

OSHA issued a willful citation against Con-Agra Poultry of Gainesville, Ga., and proposed $50,000 in penalties for failure to provide workers with fall protection.

An OSHA inspection conducted in December 2002 found that employees working up to 11 feet from the ground on top of tanker trucks had no fall protection. The inspection was initiated from a complaint received about a fall that had occurred a few weeks earlier.

"Company representatives were aware of OSHA's requirement for fall protection but took no action to provide it," said G.T. Breezley, OSHA's Atlanta-East area director. "When an employee sustained serious injuries in a recent fall from a tanker truck, work was stopped and then resumed without any corrective action taken."

A willful citation is issued when an employer's actions show an intentional disregard or indifference to OSHA regulations.

Con-Agra employs about 17,600 workers nationally and approximately 1,200 at the Gainesville poultry processing plant. The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citation to comply, request an informal conference with the area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




OSHA FINES PAPER PLANT $258,000 FOLLOWING INSPECTION OF FATAL EXPLOSION

OSHA cited Durango-Georgia Paper Company and assessed fines totaling $258,000 for safety hazards at its St. Mary's, Ga., plant. The citations resulted from inspection of an explosion at the plant on Aug. 17 that killed two workers and seriously injured a third.

As two employees attempted to relight a recovery boiler, an explosion occurred, forcibly scattering steam, hot black liquor, smelt and boiler parts throughout the area. The two workers and a third almost 50 feet away suffered severe thermal and chemical burns. Two of the victims later died of their injuries.

"This company has been cited in the recent past for willful violations, which are issued when there is a finding of intentional disregard for worker safety," said John Deifer, OSHA's Savannah area director. "In our inspection of this tragic accident, we found two willful, one repeat and 45 serious violations, exposing workers to hazards throughout the plant."

OSHA found that the company allowed employees to work at heights of up to 50 feet without providing fall protection, and required employees to stand on a conveyor belt to remove jammed logs without assuring that the machine was first "locked out," which would have rendered it inoperable during the activity. These workers were exposed to being struck by moving logs, falling from the conveyor or being thrown into the chipper machine. The agency issued two willful citations with penalties of $55,000 each for these violations.

Another $17,500 fine accompanied a repeat citation for seven instances of accumulation of debris in various locations throughout the plant. The company had been cited for a similar violation in August 2000.

One hazard, directly related to the explosion, was among the 45 serious violations cited. The employer allowed workers to light the boiler using a continuous flow of fuel oil for at least several minutes, resulting in excess accumulation of explosive gases in the boiler, rather than following industry-recognized start-up procedures which call for closing an igniter shutoff valve if a flame is not established within 10 seconds. According to the National Fire Protection Association, waiting at least a minute before again trying to ignite the boiler prevents build-up of combustible gases.

A second serious citation concerned exposing employees to injury from falling concrete, brick and glass in areas of the plant that were experiencing structural deterioration. The falling debris also posed a potential threat of damaging lines carrying chlorine dioxide in these areas. Vapors and fumes from the lethal gas can be fatal.

Other serious violations included several incidents of unguarded machinery and equipment, lack of confined space entry precautions, "lock-out/tagout" violations, missing handrails for fall protection, lack of personal protective equipment, blocked exits and numerous electrical hazards. Fines for the serious violations totaled $130,500.

Durango-Georgia, a subsidiary of Corporacion Durango of Mexico, employed approximately 900 workers at the St. Mary's paper mill. Since the time of the inspection, the company has closed the mill and sought bankruptcy protection. On Nov. 19, Chapter 11 status was granted.




DOES YOUR FACILITY HAVE A PLAN FOR RESPONDING TO TERRORIST ATTACKS?

A few rolls of duct tape might not be enough!

Your response to a terrorist attack will be significantly different to the responses you have planned for in your SPCC plan, Hazardous Waste Contingency Plan, Risk Management Plan, etc. Now is the time to develop a plan to protect the health and safety of your employees in the event of a terrorist attack. As with all of your other incident response plans, hopefully, you'll never need to implement this plan. However, your employees will have some additional peace of mind knowing that you are looking out for their safety. The following suggestions are based on guidance from the Department of Homeland Security.

  • Make sure your workplace has a building evacuation plan that is regularly practiced.
  • Take a critical look at your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to determine if it is secure or if it could feasibly be upgraded to better filter potential contaminants, and be sure you know how to turn it off if you need to.
  • Think about what to do if your employees can't go home.
    - Can they stay at work overnight?
    - How can they contact or reunite with their families?
  • Do you have radios available to monitor emergency broadcasts?
  • Are you ready for employee injuries? Power outages? Contaminated water or air?
  • Do you know where the nearest shelters are?

Have your employees been trained in what to do? How to evacuate? Make sure you have appropriate supplies on hand. See http://www.ready.gov/make_a_kit.html for ideas.

For more information on specific building threats, see "Protecting Building Environments from Airborne Chemical, Biological, or Radiological Attacks" at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/bldvent/2002-139.html

If you need assistance in developing a site-specific plan, contact Amy Knight at aknight@ercweb.com.