OSHA Proposes Updates to Powered Industrial Trucks Standards

February 21, 2022
A proposed rule published this week by OSHA would update design and construction requirements for the agency’s powered industrial trucks standards for general industry and construction. OSHA proposes that the standards incorporate by reference the applicable provisions of national consensus standards from the American National Standards Institute and the Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation. The agency’s first standard for powered industrial trucks went into effect in 1971 and was based on industry consensus standards from 1969. National consensus standards have been updated several times since then, including “substantial revisions” to ANSI standards, according to the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda.
OSHA’s proposed rule would also address powered industrial trucks manufactured before the effective date of the final rule. For example, OSHA proposes allowing the use of equipment not constructed in accordance with consensus standards “if the employer can demonstrate that the truck they use was designed and constructed in a manner that provides employee protection that is at least as effective as the national consensus standards incorporated by reference in OSHA's standards.”
According to OSHA, powered industrial trucks include forklifts, fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by an electric motor or internal combustion engine. The agency’s press release explains that its new proposed rule is part of a series of regulatory projects to update standards to reflect the current versions of both consensus and national industry standards.
This proposal is part of a series of regulatory projects by OSHA to update nearly 200 consensus and industry standards to reflect the current versions of consensus and national industry standards.
OSHA is accepting comments on its notice of proposed rulemaking until May 17. Submit comments online, identified by Docket No. OSHA-2020-0008 at the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Read the Federal Register notice for submission instructions. Deadline for submitting comments is May 17, 2022.
Big Lake Gas Ordered to Pay $3 Million Fine
A west Texas gas plant has been ordered to pay a $3 million criminal fine, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham.
Big Lake Gas Plant L.P., a subsidiary of West Texas Gas, Inc., pleaded guilty in September 2021 to one count of negligent endangerment and one count of violating the Clean Air Act. The company, represented by counsel, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix. 
In plea papers, the company admitted that in August 2018, the plant negligently released approximately 525 pounds of hydrogen sulfide into the ambient air. (Hydrogen sulfide is a toxic gas that can compromise the human nervous system and respiratory tract and can cause life-threatening health effects if not handled properly.)
One employee, identified in court documents by the initials C.T., died as a result of exposure sustained while working at the plant. Another employee, identified by the initials G.T., was injured while trying to assist C.T.
The company further admitted that it knowingly failed to properly update its risk management plan following the incident, an update required by law. 
“Big Lake’s flagrant disregard of federal clean air regulations had calamitous consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham. “Our prayers are with the family of the employee killed in the 2018 hydrogen sulfide incident. We hope today’s sentencing brings them a measure of peace.”
“The defendant’s willful and knowing disregard for federal safety regulations and industry practices placed both workers and the public at grave risk, resulting in a tragic and preventable fatality and release of dangerous gasses.” said Todd “Tony” Adams, Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge of the EPA’s Southwest Office criminal enforcement program. “EPA and its state partners continue to hold accountable companies that place workers, local communities, and the environment at risk.”
In a related civil case, five subsidiaries of Big Lake’s parent company, West Texas Gas, agreed to pay more than $3 million in civil penalties and to spend up to $5 million on compliance measures in order to resolve claims that it violated federal Clean Air Act chemical accident prevention requirements at plants in Texas and New Mexico.
$3 Million Civil Penalty Levied for Ammonia and Cyanide Violations
Cliffs Burns Harbor (Cleveland-Cliffs) has agreed to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and other laws, for an August 2019 discharge of ammonia and cyanide-laden wastewater into the East Branch of the Little Calumet River. The discharge, which led to fish kills in the river, also caused beach closures along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Cleveland-Cliffs is undertaking substantial measures to improve its wastewater system at its steel manufacturing and finishing facility in Burns Harbor, Indiana. 
The complaint filed with the settlement alleges that Cleveland-Cliffs exceeded discharge pollution limits for cyanide and ammonia; failed to properly report those cyanide and ammonia releases under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA); and violated other Clean Water Act and permit terms.
“Today’s settlement with Cleveland-Cliffs appropriately penalizes the company for its significant violations and requires extensive actions by the company to prevent future pollution,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The cyanide and ammonia reductions will result in a cleaner Lake Michigan, and the public will be kept informed of potential future spills.”
“EPA and its partners worked together to develop a comprehensive solution that will not only support the continued enjoyment of Lake Michigan and Indiana waterways, but also implement necessary measures at the facility to prevent future spills like this again,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement demonstrates that EPA is committed to protecting our natural resources from harmful pollution.”
“Hoosiers support a legal climate in Indiana that both promotes thriving businesses and protects our natural environment,” said Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. “I’m pleased to see a resolution in this particular case that upholds the rule of law and establishes commitments to make physical upgrades that will benefit everyone involved.”
“I am grateful to our federal and community partners who helped reach this settlement,” said Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Commissioner Brian Rockensuess. “The consent decree will result in additional protections for the local community and Lake Michigan and go a long way in improving both health and the environment in Northwest Indiana.”
The settlement agreement, which is memorialized in a consent decree lodged in federal district court in the Northern District of Indiana, requires Cleveland-Cliffs to pay $3 million as a civil penalty and to reimburse the EPA and the State of Indiana for response costs incurred as a result of an August 2019 discharge of wastewater containing ammonia and cyanide into a river that flows into Lake Michigan. A new ammonia treatment system and cyanide treatment requirements will greatly reduce the facility’s water pollution levels.
Cleveland-Cliffs will also resolve allegations under EPCRA and CERCLA by implementing a protocol to notify relevant state and local groups about any future spills of cyanide from its Burns Harbor facility.
In August 2019, the facility’s blast furnace closed loop air scrubber water recycle system failed, requiring Cleveland-Cliffs to draw in large volumes of Lake Michigan water and discharge it through the facility outfalls, without being able to recycle the water. Cleveland-Cliffs’ wastewater treatment system is not designed for the treatment and discharge of this volume of water, so the incident resulted in discharges containing high levels of untreated cyanide and ammonia-nitrogen. Following the discharge of untreated water, there was a fish kill in the East Branch of the Little Calumet River.
Cleveland-Cliffs failed to provide timely notification and emergency reports to the local emergency response authorities after the release, as required under CERCLA/EPCRA.
EPA and IDEM conducted response actions in and around the areas of the discharges. The incident closed several local beaches along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Inspections and further investigation of the facility by EPA and Indiana Department of Environmental Management revealed additional violations of the facility’s NPDES permits. 
In December 2019, the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) and Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) filed a citizen suit against Cleveland-Cliffs for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. ELPC and HEC are also signatories to the consent decree, which will resolve their ongoing citizen suit.
Under the consent decree, Cleveland-Cliffs will construct and operate a new ammonia treatment system at the blast furnaces, implement a new procedure for managing and treating once-through water during emergency situations, and follow enhanced preventive maintenance, operation and sampling requirements for the facility. These measures are designed to fix conditions at the facility that gave rise to the August 2019 spill, furthering compliance with the CWA and analogous state laws. 
To resolve the citizen suit claims, Cleveland-Cliffs has also agreed to two state-administered Environmentally Beneficial Projects (EBPs): (1) a transfer of 127 acres of land property adjacent to the Indiana National Lakeshore to a land trust for conservation; and (2) background sampling on the East Branch of the Little Calumet River and Lake Michigan.
As part of the agreement, Cleveland-Cliffs will reimburse EPA’s total cleanup response costs of $10,025.37 and Indiana’s response costs of $37,650.
The settlement, lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period following notification in the Federal Register, and final approval by the court.
Roofing Product Manufacturer Fined Nearly $100,000 Following Worker Death
The failure to follow basic lockout/tagout procedures was directly connected to the death of a worker in Sumas when an agitator arm inside a tank he was cleaning turned on. After an inspection by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), the company responsible is being fined $98,000.
IKO Pacific failed to control the power supply to dangerous equipment and failed to properly supervise work in confined spaces. The company has been cited for 17 serious violations and one general violation following the investigation into the July 17, 2021, fatality.
“It was clear this company knew what needed to be done since they had plans in place that, if properly implemented, could have prevented this tragedy,” said Craig Blackwood, L&I assistant director. “Lockout/tagout and energy control are fundamental safety measures that have long been commonplace on worksites. Tragic accidents like this one show exactly why they continue to be important.”
Energy control incidents happen when machinery unexpectedly or accidentally gets power and starts up because the power source isn’t shut off or “locked out.” Seven of the violations stem from not following their own energy control and lockout procedures. The company failed to have an authorized employee specifically responsible for checking to ensure the safety of the tank.
The investigation revealed IKO Pacific had a written energy control plan that, if followed, would have prevented the equipment from operating while the worker was inside the tank.
Because of the dangers of working in enclosed spaces, businesses are also required to take specific steps to keep workers safe in these confined areas. A confined space is one that is large enough and arranged so that a worker can fully enter it and work, has limited or restricted entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous human occupancy. Examples include tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins hoppers, vaults, excavations and pits.
IKO Pacific was cited for the remaining 10 serious violations because they did not ensure those steps were followed. Specifically, L&I cited the company for failure to supervise and coordinate entry into the confined space, failure to prevent unauthorized entry, and failure to provide adequate rescue.
IKO had a written confined space entry program but did not implement many of these procedures.
Paper Mill Fined $68,000 for Water Quality Violations
Repeated water quality violations at the North Pacific Paper Company LLC (NORPAC) mill in Longview led to a $68,000 penalty from the Washington Department of Ecology. Pollution above permitted levels can negatively impact human health and the environment.
Over more than a year, NORPAC failed to properly treat and monitor its stormwater and wastewater, and did not fully address pollution violations at the paper mill when informed by Ecology to take corrective action.
Stormwater and wastewater from the NORPAC facility is treated at neighboring industrial facilities before ultimately being discharged to the Columbia River. Sediments, chemicals, and debris from stormwater and process wastewater can harm aquatic life and reduce water quality. The Columbia River is home to many aquatic species including endangered salmon and steelhead.
Between April 2020 and November 2021, the company failed 71 times to meet pollution limits for solids and organic materials in its process wastewater. In addition, there were pH violations that can be harmful to water quality and fish. Other pollutants were not monitored as frequently as required under the mill’s permit.
NORPAC’s permit requires the company to take corrective action when it does not meet stormwater pollution discharge benchmarks. NORPAC failed to successfully take corrective action to prevent stormwater pollution violations in at least 20 incidents at the plant.
In August 2020, Ecology issued a compliance order to NORPAC for ongoing stormwater violations. The facility was ordered to complete a stormwater characterization study and include the new information in the update to its permit. Ecology found NORPAC’s initial characterization study to be insufficient, and additional revisions failed to address many of the concerns identified.
Trench Violations Found at East Boston Worksite
OSHA has cited the employer involved in a February 2021 double fatality at a downtown Boston worksite and his successor company again for failing to provide employees with essential and required safeguards, this time at an East Boston residential construction site. 
Responding to a complaint indicating employees were exposed to excavation hazards while working in a foundation at 18 Crestway Road, OSHA inspectors found employees exposed to cave-in and other potentially life-threatening hazards. Specifically, OSHA determined that Laurence Moloney and his companies did not:
  • Ensure cave-in protection for each employee working in an excavation
  • Provide adequate protection to prevent loose rock or soil from falling into the excavation
  • Instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions
  • Conduct frequent and regular inspections of the job site to identify and correct hazards
  • Ensure stability of adjoining buildings, walls, or other structures endangered by excavation operations
  • Ensure that a competent person identified all confined spaces employees were to enter
  • Provide adequate helmets to protect employees against impact and penetration by falling and flying objects
As a result, OSHA has cited Laurence Moloney, doing business as Atlantic Coast Utilities, LLC/Advanced Utilities, Inc. and Nuala Nichoncubhair, doing business as Sterling Excavation, LLC and their successors, for four willful and three serious violations and one other than serious violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Proposed penalties total $624,777.
“Less than six months after being cited for egregious willful violations in the deaths of two employees in an excavation, this serial violator again exposed employees to potentially fatal cave-in and struck-by hazards,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton in Boston. “While Laurence Moloney may reincorporate and operate under a variety of names, what is consistent is his pattern of willfully violating safety and health requirements, ignoring OSHA citations and penalties and persistently placing employees in harm’s way.”
In August 2021, OSHA cited Moloney and his companies and proposed $1,350,884 in penalties, for 28 violations following the deaths of two workers in a trench on High Street in downtown Boston. Those citations and penalties are currently being contested. Under various names, including Shannon Construction Corp. and Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC, Moloney and his companies have an extensive history of OSHA trenching and excavation violations dating back almost 20 years. Six previous inspections of his companies resulted in the issuance of 14 willful repeat and serious violations, with $81,242 in penalties, $73,542 of which are unpaid and have been referred to debt collection.
This employer meets the requirements for the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Molson Coors’ Beverage Container Manufacturing Facility Certified as Voluntary Protections Program ‘Star’ Site
The beverage container manufacturer maintains excellent housekeeping practices to promote workplace safety. Powered industrial truck operator training includes safety training for pedestrians working around forklifts. The site also uses innovative technology to ensure that only trained and authorized employees operate various equipment throughout the facility. Machinery will not operate without valid employee identification.
The Voluntary Protection Programs recognize employers and workers in private industry and federal agencies that have implemented effective safety and health management systems. The employers maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries. In the VPP, management and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses through a system focused on hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, management commitment and worker involvement.
To participate, employers must apply to OSHA for consideration, and undergo a rigorous on-site evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals.
Initially approved in December 2006, Molson Coors’ Rocky Mountain Metal Container End Plant location has maintained VPP certification for more than 15 years.
“Entering into OSHA’s Voluntary Protections Program is a noteworthy achievement and maintaining a VPP Star site for more than a decade and a half is a tremendous achievement,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver. OSHA and its safety and health professionals greatly appreciates Molson Coors’ sincere commitment to worker safety and health from all levels of its organization.”
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