OSHA concurrently issued citations and signed a settlement agreement with Lawter International, Inc. The employer agreed to accept 20 unclassified violations of OSHA standards with assessed fines totaling $263,500.
The settlement follows an OSHA inspection of Lawter International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eastman Chemical Company, which began Jan. 24 after a complaint from a contract employee that he was exposed to releases of hazardous boron trifluoride (BF3) while working in the Moundville hydrocarbon plant.
OSHA's inspection confirmed that employees were being exposed to BF3 releases at a scrubber for aging tanks, a problem which dated back to 1998. Employees were also exposed to BF3 releases at other locations throughout the plant. Other violations of OSHA's standard for process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals included failure to follow procedures required for chemical process changes -- in this case, when the company added a piece of equipment to the hydrocarbon process -- and failure to make necessary corrections noted during a 1995 process hazard analysis and an internal process safety management audit conducted in 1998.
The inspection also found that employees engaged in emergency response had not received mandatory training for response to hazardous waste spills, and there was no program for handling small releases of hazardous waste. In addition, workers were not provided proper respiratory protection when working in areas where they could be exposed to BF3, or for emergency escape from releases hazardous waste.
"This employer allowed hazardous conditions to go uncorrected and BF3 releases to persist," said Lana Graves, OSHA's Mobile area director. "Following our inspection, however, we were able to work with Lawter and Eastman Chemicals to identify ways to enhance the company's safety and health programs. Management's commitment extended beyond abatement of the noted hazards to a genuine effort to address employee concerns."
As part of the settlement, Lawter agreed to:
- form a joint management/union training and education committee to perform task analysis of each job at the plant to determine skills needed;
- provide each employee with at least 24 hours of on and off-site task-based training annually;
- establish a continuing education program to assist employees in developing and meeting training needs;
- work with the Moundville Volunteer Fire Department and the Tuscaloosa Fire Department to provide an integrated and effective response to plant emergencies;
- participate in a focus group with OSHA's Mobile area office to exchange information and experiences related to process safety management;
- provide OSHA's Mobile office with quarterly reports of chemical releases requiring an incident investigation;
- require supervisory personnel for all resident contractors to complete a minimum of 30 hours of OSHA-related safety and health training and all employees of other outside contractors to complete a minimum of 10 hours of such training;
- establish a Community Action Panel to address public concerns and provide information about chemical processes at the plant.
OSHA also cited two contractors working on-site during the plant inspection and fined each $12,600. Pelham-Ala.-based Gulf States, Inc., is Lawter's resident contractor for process equipment additions and repairs, and was working on plant expansion at the time of OSHA's inspection. Another contractor, BE&K Engineering of Birmingham, was upgrading piping and instrumentation diagrams for the site. Both contractors were cited for two serious safety violations: not training employees for potential chemical hazards in the workplace and not providing appropriate respirators.
Lawter International, based in Pleasant Prairie, Wisc., employs about 70 workers at its two Moundville plants -- the Hydrocarbon plant and the Krumbhaar plant -- to manufacture chemicals used in making inks and the coatings that enhance their performance. OSHA has inspected the company numerous times with resulting serious, willful and repeat citations and failure to abate notices.
OSHA CITATIONS AGAINST CAROLINA STEEL FOR SAFETY VIOLATIONS RESULT IN PROPOSED PENALTY OF $55,775
OSHA cited Carolina Steel Corporation on June 29 and proposed a $55,775 penalty for alleged safety violations at the company's Montgomery, Ala., plant.
Following a planned inspection of the facility, OSHA cited Carolina Steel for 23 alleged serious violations of safety standards, including:
- lack of guardrails for fall protection;
- failure to adequately inspect/maintain/repair forklifts and cranes;
- blocked access to electrical and fire protection equipment;
- lack of proper machine guarding for machinery such as saws and bench grinders;
- inadequate training for lockout/tagout, emergency response and fire extinguisher use;
- lack of a written program for confined space entry; and
- incomplete written programs for emergency response and lockout/tagout procedures
"OSHA encourages companies to be proactive in their approach to safety and health. With a fully enforced, comprehensive written safety program, this employer could have eliminated hazards such as those we found during our inspection," said Lana Graves, OSHA's Mobile area director.
OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
Of Carolina Steel's 500 workers nationwide, 75 are employed at the Montgomery plant where bridge girders are manufactured.
The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
NTP PLANS TO LOOK AT COMMON VIRUSES, RADIATION, COOKING BY-PRODUCTS FOR NEW CARCINOGEN REPORT
The National Toxicology Program announced it plans to review three viruses, three forms of radiation, two substances formed in cooking, and a variety of industrial exposures for possible listing in the eleventh edition of the federal Report on Carcinogens, which will be published in 2004.
The NTP, which is headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, prepares such a report every two years. The report is mandated by Congress to help assure that substances or conditions that are likely to cause cancer are properly recognized by the public and regulatory agencies. Substances may be listed as "known" or as "reasonably anticipated" human carcinogens.
The NTP's announcement of its plans, which was published in the Federal Register, asks the public and scientists to comment during the next 60 days on the nominations and to provide any data on whether they are carcinogenic, how much is produced, how they are used and in what ways people are exposed. The 16 nominations for NTP's planned review are:
- 1-Amino-2,4-dibromoanthraquinone, a vat dye used in the textile industry.
- 2-Amino-3,4-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (or MeIQ), a substance formed in food during heating or cooking and found in cooked meat and fish.
- Cobalt Sulfate, which is used in electroplating and electrochemical industries, as a coloring agent for ceramics, as a drying agent in inks, paints, varnishes and linoleum and as a mineral supplement in animal feed.
- Diazoaminobenzene (DAAB), which is used to promote adhesion of natural rubber to steel, as a polymer additive and an intermediate in the production of a number of pesticides, dyes and other industrial chemicals.
- Diethanolamine (DEA), which is used in preparing liquid laundry and dishwashing detergents, cosmetics, shampoos and hair conditioners, as well as in textile processing and other industrial uses.
- Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), a small DNA-enveloped virus that is transmitted through contact with blood and blood products or other body fluids.
- Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), an RNA-enveloped virus mainly transmitted in blood as is HBV above.
- High Risk Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs), small non-enveloped viruses that infect genital mucous membranes. HPV infections are common throughout the world.
- X-radiation and gamma radiation, used in medical diagnosis and treatment, and produced in the use of atomic weapons.
- Neutrons, which may affect patients getting neutron radiotherapy and the passengers and crew of aircraft, which are naturally bombarded by the particle.
- Naphthalene, which is used in making many industrial chemicals, and as an ingredient in some moth balls and toilet bowl deodorants.
- Nitrobenzene, which is used in the production of aniline, a major chemical intermediate in the production of dyes.
- Nitromethane, a stabilizer added to many halogenated solvents and aerosol propellants.
- Phenylimidazopyridine, which, like MeIQ (second item), is formed in food during heating and cooking and is found in cooked meat and fish.
- 4,4'-Thiodianiline, which is an intermediate in the manufacture of several dyes.
Comments or questions should be addressed to Dr. C. W. Jameson, NIEHS/NTP, 79 Alexander drive, Building 4401, Room 3118, PO Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.
NHTSA SEEKS COMMENT ON PROPOSED TIRE PRESSURE MONITORING SYSTEMS
NHTSA proposed a new federal motor vehicle safety standard requiring the installation of tire pressure monitoring systems in new passenger cars, light trucks, buses and multipurpose passenger vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings of 10,000 pounds or less to warn the driver when the vehicle has a significantly under-inflated tire.
This notice seeks comment on two alternative versions of the regulation. Only one version will be in the final rule.
One alternative would require that the driver be warned when the pressure in one or more tires, up to a total of four tires, has fallen to 20 percent or more below the vehicle manufacturer's recommended cold inflation pressure for the vehicle's tires, or a minimum level of pressure to be specified in the new standard, whichever is higher.
The other alternative would require that the driver be warned when tire pressure in one or more tires, up to a total of three tires, has fallen to 25 percent or more below the vehicle manufacturer's recommended cold inflation pressure for the vehicle's tires, or a minimum level of pressure to be specified in the new standard, whichever is higher.
NHTSA estimates that 49 to 79 deaths and 6,585 to 10,635 injuries could be prevented each year if all vehicles were equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems. Consumers would benefit from increased fuel economy and longer tire wear. In addition, there would be benefits resulting from fewer crashes due to tire blowouts, immobilized vehicles, or poor vehicle handling from pressure loss and hydroplaning.
For the next 45 days, the public may submit comments in writing to: Docket Section, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590. Click on "Help & Information" or "Help/Info" to view instructions. Cite docket number 2000-8572 in either written or electronic submissions. The full text of the proposal and associated documents are on display at the website.
NHTSA REPORTS ON MAJOR SURVEY OF CELL PHONE USE BY DRIVERS
At any given time, an estimated 3 percent of those driving passenger vehicles on America's roadways are talking on hand-held cell phones, according to results of a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In its newly released research report, NHTSA estimates that 500,000 drivers of passenger vehicles (cars, vans, sport utility vehicles and pickups) are talking on hand-held cell phones during any given daytime moment throughout the week. The report is based on an observational survey of drivers conducted in 50 geographic areas.
The research represents the first observational study by NHTSA of active cell phone use by drivers. NHTSA data collectors observed more than 12,000 vehicles between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day of the week during a period spanning October and November of 2000. Data were collected at 640 intersections.
The research covers use rates for hand-held cell phones, not the "hands free" types now used by some drivers. It also does not attempt to assess the contribution of cell phone use to traffic crashes, though NHTSA data indicate that some form of driver distraction is a contributing factor in 20 to 30 percent of all crashes.
The highest use rate observed during the survey (8 percent) was by drivers of vans and SUVs during non-rush hours. Use rates by drivers of all types of passenger vehicles were almost twice as high during non-rush hours as during rush hours.
Female drivers were observed using a cell phone more frequently than male drivers. This was especially true for female drivers of vans and SUVs, where use rates were nearly twice as high as male drivers (6.1 percent compared to 3.2 percent).
There was little difference in cell phone use by drivers in the "young adult" age group (16 to 24) versus the "adult" age group (24 to 69). However, use by "seniors" (ages 70 and over) was much less (1.4 percent versus the national use rate of 3 percent).
Finally, use by drivers classified as "white" was higher than use by drivers classified as "black" or of "other races" (3.7 percent compared to 2.3 percent and 1.7 percent respectively).
Overall, cell phone use rates were slightly higher in suburban areas than in rural areas (3.4 percent compared to 3 percent).
For the nation as a whole, the survey shows that cell phone use rates were highest for drivers of vans and SUVs and lowest for those driving pickup trucks. Drivers of vans and SUVs also had the highest use rates in the Midwest and South. In the Northeast, use rates for passenger car drivers and the drivers of vans and SUVs were essentially the same. In the Midwest and West, drivers of pickups had higher use rates than did passenger car drivers.
Cell phone use by drivers was higher on weekdays than on weekends. On weekends, the use rate for drivers of pickups exceeded the use rates of drivers of passenger cars and the drivers of vans and SUVs. On weekdays, use rates by drivers of vans and SUVs was higher than that of drivers of other vehicles.
The 2000 Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey, a phone survey conducted by NHTSA from November 2000 to January 2001, estimated that 54 percent of drivers "usually" have some type of wireless phone in their vehicle with them. Fifty-five percent of these drivers reported that their phone is on during "all" or "most" of their trips and 73 percent reported using their phone while driving.
The newly released research on cell phone use rates by drivers was conducted along with NHTSA's "National Occupant Protection Use Survey," an observational study of seat belt use that has been conducted by NHTSA periodically since 1994. The overall estimate of driver hand-held cell phone use has a margin of error of one percentage point.
REPLACEMENT TIRE REPORT SENT TO HOUSE COMMITTEE
NHTSA announced that it has completed its review of 11 different models/sizes of tires that were designated by Ford Motor Company as replacements for Firestone Wilderness AT tires on Ford vehicles.
The review was requested June 19, 2001, by Chairman W.J. "Billy" Tauzin of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who provided NHTSA with claims data on 11 tire models/sizes on Ford's list of replacement tires.
After reviewing all of the available information, NHTSA has decided to open a defect investigation on one of the replacements, the General Ameri*550 AS tire of the P235/70R16 size. The tires were manufactured by Continental Tire North America. The agency is not opening investigations into any of the other tires on the replacement list.
This review was prompted by claims data obtained in response to a specific Congressional request. Under regulations NHTSA is developing under the authority of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act, manufacturers will be required to routinely provide the agency with data needed to help alert NHTSA to emerging safety issues.
The Ameri*550 tire is used as original equipment on Ford F150 pickup trucks and was identified by Ford as a replacement for Firestone Wilderness AT tires on those pickups. Approximately 2.7 million of these tires have been produced since 1995.
The tread separation claims rate for this tire is 124 ppm (parts per million). While claims rates are not determinative in themselves, this rate far exceeds that of any other tire on the committee's list. These claims on the Ameri*550 include seven crashes, including two rollovers, in which the tire failure apparently led to an injury-producing event, with a total of 17 claimed injuries.
The manufacturer has made numerous design and production changes to these tires since they entered production in April 1995. It asserts that several of these changes had the effect of reducing the likelihood of a tread separation, particularly after certain modifications were implemented in July 1998. The claims rates for tires manufactured after these modifications are extremely low, and there have not been any injury-producing crashes attributed to those tires. Nevertheless, to assure that relevant information is not missed, NHTSA's investigation will consider the safety performance of the entire population of these tires, rather than only those produced prior to those design changes.
NHTSA emphasizes that the opening of this defect investigation does not mean that NHTSA has concluded that these tires contain a safety-related defect or that they are not "safe." Rather, it reflects a decision that issues have been raised that warrant further investigation by the agency.
For six of the ten other tire models/sizes identified by the House committee, the agency is unaware of any crashes or injuries associated with them. The claims frequency for those tires also is low compared to the other tires on the list. For each of the remaining four tire models/sizes on the list, there are at least some claims that tire failures have led to crashes (some involving alleged injuries and/or fatalities). However, almost all of the crash-related claims involved tires manufactured in the late 1980s or early 1990s, and tires of that age are almost certainly no longer on the road. Moreover, the overall claims rates do not, in themselves, warrant the opening of a defect investigation.
NHTSA emphasizes that the decision not to open a defect investigation at this time does not mean that NHTSA has concluded that the tires are "safe." Moreover, if the agency becomes aware of new information that indicates the existence of a significant problem with any of these tires, it will open a defect investigation at that time.
CSB INTENSIFIES INVESTIGATION OF MOTIVA ACID TANK FAILURE
The U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has dispatched six investigation team members to the site of the catastrophic failure of a storage tank containing spent sulfuric acid at Motiva EnterpriseÆs Delaware City (Del.) refinery. Eight people were injured in the release and accompanying fire. One contract employee is still missing.
The team will carry on work begun after the incident by a CSB preliminary assessment team.
The incident occurred during July 17th maintenance operations near the tank prior to the tankÆs failure, which released spent acid and flammable material, which ignited. Five contract employees were reportedly welding on metal catwalks above the tanks.
An estimated 660,000 gallons of acid have been released so far, according to a new estimate from the company. Thousands of fish and crabs were killed when the acid reached the Delaware River. The company is attempting to remove acid from the remaining tanks, which may be leaking their contents, and they are building additional containment walls in an attempt to limit further off-site environmental damage. Access to the immediate area surrounding the incident location has been limited due to continuing hazards.
On Monday Motiva Enterprises LLC said in a letter to several government agencies that the collapsed tank was "overdue for inspection," had "open work order(s) to repair a hole in the tank," "had been recommended for removal from service," and "had previous vapor and liquid releases."
"Obviously the CSB is extremely interested in the conditions that existed prior to this catastrophic failure," said Board Member Dr. Andrea Kidd Taylor. "Our investigation team will be looking at, among other items, just what was known about the condition of the tank, the company's hazard evaluation process and the adequacy of their procedures," Taylor said.
OSHA LAUNCHES NATIONAL EMPHASIS PROGRAM TO REDUCE LEAD EXPOSURE
OSHA announced a national emphasis program aimed at reducing occupational exposure to lead, one of the leading causes of workplace illnesses.
"Occupational exposure to lead is still one of the most prevalent overexposures found throughout industry," said R. Davis Layne, acting OSHA administrator. "It's imperative we do all we can to reduce that exposure to workers. This national emphasis program will help us focus inspection efforts on worksites involved in lead-related activities."
The program will apply to all workplaces under OSHA's jurisdiction including general industry, construction, longshoring, maritime, and shipyards. Details of the program are contained in a compliance directive Layne issued to OSHA's field offices. The compliance directive includes, as a resource, a list of standard industrial codes for which high exposure levels have been demonstrated or for which high blood lead levels have been documented.
The program will cover complaints and referrals, and will set targeted inspections in industries or worksites where there is a potential for lead exposure. OSHA area offices throughout the country will develop a list of establishments under their jurisdiction which are likely to be involved in lead-related activities. Inspections will include establishments with fewer than ten employees.
OSHA hopes to reduce occupational lead exposures by 15%; by the end of FY2002, a goal established in the agency's Strategic Plan. Under that goal, OSHA committed to reduce three of the most prevalent types of workplace injuries and illnesses -- amputations, plus the hazards associated with exposure to silica and lead.
Lead is a systemic poison. Overexposure to lead can damage blood-forming, nervous, urinary and reproductive systems. It is commonly added to industrial paints because of its characteristic to resist corrosion and add certain color characteristics. Industries with particularly high potential exposures include: construction that involves welding, cutting, brazing, blasting, etc., on lead paint surfaces; most smelter operations either as a trace contaminant or as a major product; secondary lead smelters where lead is recovered from batteries; radiator repair shops; and firing ranges.
The twenty-four states and two territories which operate their own OSHA programs are encouraged, but not required, to adopt a similar emphasis program.