Worker Fatally Struck in Pressure Release Accident

pressure releaseTar Heel, NC – The North Carolina division of OSHA has launched an investigation into operations at the Smithfield Packing Plant in Bladen County (NC) after a mechanic was killed in a pressure release accident on the job last week.

According to sources, the fatal workplace accident began when Michael Jessup (age 55) became trapped in a piece of machinery. Jessup was performing repairs on a conveyor belt and was on a scissor lift at the time of the accident.

NC Department of Labor stated that Jessup “was struck in the head by a cylinder while trying to remove a bent wheel from a chain drive. The employee switched the airline hoses to relieve pressure from the chain when [he] was stuck.”

Emergency personnel were called to the facility where they pronounced the man dead at the scene as a result of trauma to the head. Jessup had been employed by Smithfield for about a decade.

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Willful Violations Lead to Preventable Amputation

Pennsauken, NJ – Failure to implement OSHA recommendations has led to an amputation and over $200,000 in fines for willful violations documented at an NJ snack food manufacturing facility.

A worker at J&J Snack Foods Corporation suffered a partial finger amputation in a lockout accident that could have been prevented by rectifying prior violations identified by OSHA. Following an investigation, J&J faces $206,019 in fines for federal workplace safety violations, including willful violations.

OSHA’s investigation found that failures to correct previously issued workplace safety violations led to the amputation accident at J&J’s Pennsauken manufacturing facility. The snack-food maker failed to correct prior violations of safety procedures known as lockout/tagout procedures which are written instructions for de-energizing each piece of equipment.

OSHA inspectors determined that the worker was cleaning a machine when it activated. This is typical of accidents whose cause can be traced back to lockout/tagout failures or energy control hazards.

Million of American workers service equipment as a part of their job, and these people face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout is not properly implemented. It is estimated that compliance with the federal lockout/tagout standard prevents 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation. OSHA’s area director stated that “the employer’s failure to correct previously identified violations and follow basic safety standards resulted in this preventable incident.”

J&J was cited for willfully failing to conduct periodic inspections of energy control procedures used to de-energize equipment when cleaning; failing to implement lockout procedures to prevent unintentional machine start-up; and failing to train employees on lockout/tagout procedures and energy hazards.

OSHA requires that employees be trained on lockout policies and procedures. Training is done to ensure that the purpose and function of the energy control program are understood by employees, and that the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage, and removal of the energy controls are acquired by employees.

J&J Snack Foods Corp manufactures popular snack foods like soft pretzels, churros, water ice, and frozen lemonade for popular brands sold throughout the United States.

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Young Father Loses Both Legs in Preventable Lockout Accident

Spooner, WI – Spooner Machine has been cited for willful and serious safety violations after a preventable lockout accident led to an explosion that resulted in the amputation of a young father’s legs. OSHA has placed Spooner Machine Inc. on its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, and has proposed penalties of $221,168.

According to local police, Spooner Machine employee Bradley Grossen, 29, suffered life-threatening injuries as a result of the explosion at the Wisconsin facility. Grossen was reportedly repairing a water table used in metal fabrication when an explosion threw him from the top of the water table to the floor.

Federal workplace safety investigators determined that the explosion was caused by an accumulation of hydrogen gas. OSHA cited Spooner Machine for failing to develop and implement procedures to control the release of hydrogen gas during service and maintenance; to ensure proper machine guarding; store gas and oxygen cylinders properly; to provide required training; and protect employees from electrical hazards.

preventable lockout accident

OSHA’s Area Office Director stated that “this injury could have been prevented if the employer had properly protected their workers from the release of hazardous energy.”

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) and Hazardous Energy Control/Control of Hazardous Energy refers to the same standard of preventing unexpected start up or movement of equipment. The terms are used interchangably, although “Lockout” is more commonly used in the United States.

Written Lockout/tagout procedures provide detailed instruction on how to isolate and lock each energy source for a given piece of equipment, helping to prevent the startup of machinery or equipment that may result in worker injuring.

Violations of federal workplace safety standards regarding lockout-tagout (or hazardous energy controls) are on OSHA’s Top 10 “Most Often Cited Violations” and Top 10 “Most Serious Violations” lists. Many companies have general written policies, but lack the equipment specific procedures which provide workers with the specific steps to properly isolate energy sources. Lockout/Tagout fines are based on each piece of equipment, and can add up to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Written procedures for the control of hazardous energy are not effective without training. OSHA requires that employees be trained on lockout policies and procedures to ensure that the purpose and function of the energy control program are understood by the workforce. A robust lockout program pairs equipment-specific lockout procedures with employees who have the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage, and removal of the energy controls.

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Disney Contractor Killed in Slip/Fall + Confined Space Accident

Orlando, FL – A fatal combination of slip/fall and confined space hazards lead to the death of Harvest Power employee John Korody. Korody died after falling into a vat filled with oil and grease outside of Walt Disney World last month. The slip/fall hazard was compounded by overwhelming fumes surrounding the oil vat.

The accident happened at the Harvest Power facility that contracts with Disney World to recycle the resort’s food waste and convert it into renewable energy and fertilizers.

Two Harvest Power employees were emptying oil and grease byproduct from a semi-truck into a vat when Korody slipped on a grate and fell in. Korody’s co-worker tried to pull him to safety but fumes from the oil and grease byproduct overwhelmed both workers, and Korody slipped farther into the vat. Korody was pronounced dead at the scene, and the local Fire Department helped to recover his body.

slip/fall

OSHA estimates that about 90 deaths involving confined spaces occur every year in the US and unfortunately, two-thirds of those killed are workers attempting to rescue someone else from the confined space.

Many workplaces contain areas that are considered “confined spaces” because while they were not necessarily designed for people, they are large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs. A confined space also has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Such spaces include (but are not limited to) tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, vats, equipment housings, ductwork, and pipelines.

OSHA outlines national workplace safety standards for permit-required confined spaces and the serious hazards they post to American workers. In addition to the difficultly in accessing and exiting confined spaces, these sites are often inadequately ventilated and/or trap noxious air. Without proper training, signage, and hazard mitigation planning, confined space conditions can result in tragic fatalities.

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Chemical Explosion and Fire Kill Two at PA Army Depot

Chambersburg, PA – OSHA is conducting an investigation at Letterkenny Army Depot following a chemical explosion which sparked a fire that killed two employees.

Eric Byers (age 29) of Huntingdon County (PA) and Richard Barnes (age 60) of Greencastle (PA) died from their injuries, two other workers were treated at a nearby hospital and released for smoke inhalation.

The explosion and fire at Letterkenny Army Depot occurred on July 19, 2018 and were caused by an accident with a chemical in the paint shop of Building 350. According to the Depot Commander, the chemical in question was being used in normal processes. Officials have declined to specify which chemical sparked the fatal explosion and fire.

Building 350 is used for maintenance and upgrades on military vehicles. The building was not damaged in the explosion or fire.

The Depot Commander reports thatchemical explosion corrective action has been taken, including additional training and signs, with further steps planned to minimize the risks associated with chemical use.

As part of the Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for Air Defense and Tactical Missile Systems, Letterkenny Army Depot facilities conduct maintenance, modification, and storage. It is the largest employer in Franklin County, PA.

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Owners Charged with 22 Count Indictment for Falsifying OSHA Documents

Omaha, NE – In a 22-count indictment, Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services and its co-owners have been charged with falsifying OSHA documents and other federal worker safety violations which prosecutors say resulted in the deaths of two men in an April 2015 Omaha confined space accident.

The president of Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services (NRCS), Stephen Michael Braithwaite, and co-owner Adam Thomas Braithwaite, are charged with submitting false documents to a federal agency and violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Adam Braithwaite also is charged with perjury, according to the federal indictments.

An explosion killed two NRCS workers and injured a third on April 14, 2015 as they were clearing a rail tanker. NRCS tested the rail cars following the explosion and found the contents to be hazardous. U.S. Attorney Joseph Kelly alleges the Braithwaites and NRCS failed to implement worker safety standards, and then tried to cover up those shortfalls following the explosion.

Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Wood stated that “protecting the health and safety of American workers at hazardous job sites is of paramount importance…The defendants in this case failed to live up to that responsibility, even falsifying documents to evade worker safety requirements. Tragically, employees at the defendants’ facility lost their lives while working in these unsafe conditions.”

Dallas Foulk and Adrian LaPour died in the 2015 confined space accident.

Aurora LaPoure, Adrian LaPoure’s mother, said her family feels a bit of relief, after hoping for justice all this time: “They violated a lot of codes, they did a lot of wrong and they killed two people,” she said. “I feel a lot of anger because this could have been prevented. Had the company done right and followed safety rules this could have been prevented. [Adrian] would still be here.”

Robert LaPoure, Adrian’s brother, hopes to see Stephen and Adam Braithwaite convicted: “I’m glad that something is finally being done. They’re going to be held accountable and hopefully justice will prevail,” he said.

OSHA regulations require air in confined spaces, like inside rail tankers, be tested for various gases including flammable and explosive fumes. According to the indictment, Stephen Braithwaite turned away federal safety inspectors in March 2015 and created documents to falsely show that NRCS had been purchasing equipment to test rail cars for the presence of benzene. The company was required to do this before sending rail cars to a landfill, but the indictment alleges that NRCS failed to do so.

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LOTO Failures Responsible for TN Employee’s Death

loto failures employee deathSurgoinsville, TN – Five serious workplace safety violations have been documented at MIS Industries in an investigation following a February 12 lockout/tagout accident that killed 34-year-old Arthur James Hendrickson. Hendrickson was crushed while retrieving a part that had jammed a hangar blaster machine at the Tennessee metal finishing facility.

Local officials say that Hendrickson climbed into the hangar blaster to remove a part that had gotten lodged in the equipment. Once he removed the piece, the door closed and  Hendrickson was trapped. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

In the course of the investigation, TOSHA (Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration) discovered that neither of the MIS team leaders could recall receiving training on Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) and were ignorant of any of the energy control procedures.

The TOSHA investigator concluded that team leaders on duty initiated maintenance activities on the Hangar Blaster without ensuring that the machine was de-energized to prevent unexpected startup. Lockout/Tagout is sometimes referred to as Hazardous Energy Control (or the Control of Hazardous Energy) – these terms refer to the same standard of preventing unexpected start up or movement of equipment.

It is estimated that 3 million workers service equipment and these employees face the greatest risk of injury if Lockout/Tagout is not properly implemented. Compliance with the lockout/tagout standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation. In a study conducted by the United Auto Workers (UAW), 20% of the fatalities that occurred among their members were attributed to inadequate lockout/tagout and hazardous energy control procedures.

TOSHA concluded that MIS did not make use of its energy control program, did not effectively train employees on their role in Lockout/Tagout, and also neglected to conduct periodic evaluations of their LOTO program.

The five serious violations were: employees were exposed to a caught-in hazard as they failed to apply energy control measures to the Hangar Blaster machine; written lockout procedures failed to clearly and specifically outline the steps for safely shutting down, isolating and securing machinery and equipment to control hazardous energy; MIS failed to conduct annual inspection of their lockout procedures; employees were not instructed in the purpose and use of lockout procedures; and machine guarding were found to be insufficient to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards.

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AL Auto Workers Exposed to Electrical and Amputation Hazards

electrical amputation hazardsAuburn, AL – Arkal Automotive USA Inc. faces $47,857 in proposed federal workplace safety penalties after an investigation of its Auburn (AL) plant revealed that workers were exposed to electrical and amputation hazards.

According to OSHA, Arkal Automotive was cited for inadequate machine guarding, failure to implement lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures to keep workers safe during machine maintenance and servicing, failing to implement safety procedures for entering a robotic cage, and for exposing employees to hazardous energy.

OSHA’s fines and citations were issued following a complaint that employees were not properly protected while entering injection molding machines. Joseph Roesler, OSHA’s area office director, stated that “Arkal Automotive USA Inc. failed to identify and correct hazards to ensure the safety and health of their employees.”

Multiple lockout/tagout failures were revealed in the course of the OSHA investigation. Arkal Automotive was found lacking proper lockout procedures for working with robots or molds, including when removing parts or cleaning molds. Additionally, safety inspectors found an insufficient amount of the required lockout equipment for employees to use for hazardous energy control. The OSHA complaint said the company failed to ensure that if more than one employee was working in a robotic area, each employee had individual lockout devices.

It was also reported that Arkal Automotive failed to ensure continuity of lockout procedures on shift change and did not have adequate machine guarding when employees reached under a portion of a robot cage to retrieve parts and pass to the operator while the machine was running.

According to OSHA records, the same facility was issued four serious violations in 2017 for lockout hazards and other violations.

Arkal Automotive is a company based in Israel, with production plants worldwide. The Auburn (AL) injection molding plant opened in 2011, and is their only production plant in the US. The Auburn facility produces door carriers, wheel liners and other functional auto parts.

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Arc Flash at CO Hydroelectric Station Sends 5 to Hospital

Georgetown, CO – Five employees were taken to the hospital following an arc flash at Xcel Energy’s Cabin Creek Hydroelectric generating station last month. Their injuries were not life threatening, and all were treated and released the same day. Xcel Energy self-reported that about eight employees and a few contractors were on-site at the time, and all were evacuated. The incident was initially reported as a fire, but upon further investigation turned out to be an arc flash.

The arc flash at Xcel Energy’s Cabin Creek Hydroelectric generating station occurred within Unit B, inside a self-contained concrete block. Because that particular station provides power only during periods of high demand, there were power outages or interruption of service to customers. The Cabin Creek hydroelectric plant was the site of an infamously fatal flash hydroelectric arc flashfire in 2007 which resulted in the death of 5 contract workers within a permit required confined space. Read more from original source.

When an arc flash happens, it does so without warning and is lightning quick. The result of this violent event is usually destruction of the equipment involved, fire, and severe injury or death to any nearby people. An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion due to a fault condition or short circuit when either a phase to ground or phase to phase conductor is connected and current flows through the air. Arc flashes cause electrical equipment to explode, resulting in injury or death to workers and destruction of electrical equipment. In an Arc Flash, temperatures may exceed 35,000°F (for perspective, the surface of the sun is estimated to be near 9000°F). These extreme temperatures cause rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. The arc flash/blast often vaporizes all solid copper conductors in a piece of equipment as the copper expands up to 67,000 times its original volume. The arc flash/blast produces fire, intense light, pressure waves and produces flying shrapnel. There are a variety of reasons why an Arc Flash can occur, but  most are preventable and ultimately attributable to human error. Many arc flashes occur when maintenance workers are manipulating live equipment for testing or repair and accidentally cause a fault or short circuit. Improper tools, improper electrical equipment, corrosion of equipment, improper work techniques and lack of electrical safety training are just some of the events that can lead to a devastating arc flash or arc blast.

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Safety 3rd  – The Mike Rowe Approach

Jim Schuster
Martin Technical, Inc.
05/26/2018

Industrial safety is not a glamorous, and there really aren’t any household names that are recognized across the industry, so when a celebrity talks about safety on a national tv show it’s pretty much the pinnacle of exposure for the safety industry. Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame has been a proponent of skilled labor and safety for a long time, and recently he was speaking about his “Safety Third” philosophy on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show. In this clip at the 1:55 mark, Mike Rowe explains his view of safety and the expectations of what happens when we elevate the values of safety to “Safety First”.

As Mike explains, it’s not that safety isn’t important, but rather that “Safety First” can set expectations that somebody else in charge cares more about your safety and well-being than you do, and that if you just follow their processes, you will be safe.  This is an excellent point as transferring your safety to another person or process can lead to complacency and reduce safety to background noise in your daily work.  By stating “Safety Third”, Mike is trying to start a conversation and make people think instead of just following a rule or checking a box for their safety.  This is much like the approach of posting speed limit signs at “14 Miles Per Hour” instead of the common “15” which is just enough of a deviation that it makes people stop, take notice and process their actions.

Where Mike is right is that the first line of safety is personal responsibility and self-awareness, which should be practiced always and not just when going through mandatory safety checks.  What we are talking about is a hot topic in the industry; safety behavior.  The challenge however is the complex set of traits for each individual and changing the behavior of each individual.  Each person has their own physical and cognitive abilities, values, risk tolerance and behavior and the expectations of having everyone on the same level of personal responsibility for safety simply isn’t realistic.  Guys like Mike are smart and experienced, but we also have to deal with the 22-year-old rock climber that would prefer to scale the racking system instead of using a forklift (yes, this was a real situation), or the new worker who just started and is afraid to ask which valve to turn in fear of looking incompetent and getting fired.  So even though an individual may exercise good personal safety behavior, it’s not enough as they are still subject to others in their environment who don’t have the same abilities or care and may create a dangerous situation for those near them.

So despite best efforts by any individual to assess the risks and take safety into their own hands, we don’t always have control of unexpected events such as the co-worker turning the wrong valve on, a machine failing, or to bring it home to a level that everyone can relate to; a driver absent mindedly running a red light.  This is why we wear seat belts; not that we are expecting ourselves to fail, but for the unexpected failure of another person or machine or unplanned circumstances such as hydroplaning on an oil glistening street after a light rain.  And with this comes safety precautions, processes, checklists, and training to the point of numbness, which is where we pick it back up with Mike.

The infinity of safety procedures, signs and training is required to provide the knowledge and awareness to the workers for their safety and has statistically proven to greatly reduce injuries, so it’s not that this needs to go away as much as the volume of it or repetitiveness of it can seem like a process running in the background that creates an environment of complacency.   Routine creates comfort, and as long as there is no incidents, the routine actions, safety processes and training disappear further and further into the background.

So how do we make safety more relevant and important?  The key is bringing things home to a personal level and expanding beyond the forms and processes and into individual responsibility.  Mike has done an excellent job with his crew by stating “Safety Third” which everyone knows that the expectation is that safety is your hands and not to count on a company, process or another individual for your safety.  It is a big leap of faith for a safety manager to state that they are not responsible for your safety and put the responsibility back on the individual, but it’s a conversation that needs to happen.  And to expand upon that, individuals need to know they are also responsible for the safety of others, which is how you build a true and proper safety culture.  Further, safety needs to be personally relevant to be understood and practiced.  Informing workers of codes and standards isn’t enough.  Mike’s safety failures have resulted in numerous injuries, which

The other part that makes Mike program successful is his personal failures and his ability to transfer that to others.  Mike is safety nut because he has had short mental lapses that resulted in injuries and forced him to re-think his safety and the safety of his crew.  His scars and broken bones tell a story that make it personal and that others can relate to.  This makes people stop and evaluate their personal situation instead of simply following processes, which is the whole point of Mike’s approach.  Safety needs to be on a personal level and informing someone about a code will never have as much impact as an emotional connection to someone’s job and the realization that they or a co-worker may not make it home this evening.

As odd as it may seem, “Safety 3rd” may be a good mantra for developing a strong safety culture at your plant or facility by disrupting the routine and reminding everyone that safety may be the priority of the company or organization, but ultimately you can’t count on others for your safety and need to take responsibility for yourself and your co-workers.  Safety managers can provide you all the training, tools and procedures you could ever need,  but it you don’t use them and take personal responsibility….that’s on you.

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