Waukegan, IL- An OSHA investigation into the deaths of four employees of an Illinois chemical plant has resulted in more than a million dollars in proposed penalties against AB Specialty Silicones LLC.
The company has been cited for a dozen willful federal safety violations in the explosion and fire at its Waukegan facility on May 3, 2019 that caused deaths of four employees.
The silicon chemical products manufacturer faces $1,591,176 in penalties and has been placed in the in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
OSHA investigators determined AB Specialty Silicones failed to ensure that electrical equipment and installations in the production area of the plant complied with OSHA electrical standards, and were approved for hazardous locations. The company also used forklifts powered by liquid propane to transport volatile flammable liquids, and operated these forklifts in areas where employees handled and processed volatile flammable liquids and gases, creating the potential for ignition.
Ontario, Canada- September 19th was Black Thursday in Ontario’s electrical sector with three separate incidents of workers contacting overhead wires causing two electrocution deaths and injuring two others.
The spate of mishaps left construction, electrical and health and safety stakeholders upset, frustrated and searching for answers.
“The Electrical Safety Authority is very saddened to hear any time there are incidents of an electrical nature,” said Dr. Joel Moody, the ESA’s chief public safety officer. “Our thoughts are with the families who have experienced loss.”
Two of the three involved construction work. The third, in Kawartha Lakes, was at a private home where workers trimming a hedge on an elevated work platform contacted a powerline. One worker died and the other was injured.
In Vaughan, a Ministry of Labour report said a worker employed by Pontil Drilling Services sustained fatal injuries when a drill boom made contact with overhead power lines.
In Scarborough, east Toronto, a worker for Darcon was injured when a tower crane hit an overhead powerline. The job site constructor is Paramount Structures.
“This is a stark reminder of the dangers of working near electricity and clearly shows there is a need for more to be done to keep workers safe,” said James Barry, executive chairman of the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario, in an online statement.
There have been 1,250 reported overhead powerline contacts in Ontario in the last 10 years with an average of two deaths per year, making the pair of fatalities on Sept. 19 a full year’s worth statistically. The ESA says construction workers are at especially high risk with 60 per cent of powerline contacts occurring with dump trucks on construction sites.
The ESA responded to the mishaps with a statement urging awareness of the specific hazards related to working near wires. It’s a message that echoes those of the ESA’s Powerline Safety Week awareness campaign that’s launched at the start of construction season each May in Canada.
The ESA also works with utilities, haulers and arborists on a regular basis, Moody said.
“We urge situational awareness with a hazard assessment being the first thing they should do,” he said. “Be aware of your surroundings.”
“All of these incidents are preventable. Electricity is very lethal and unforgiving and having safe work practices every day is very important.”
“For the most part, if you look at the utilities, they live and breathe health and safety,” Kelusky said. “These weren’t utility workers, the guys dealing with the live stuff, they deal with it with great respect and understanding. That is a cultural thing from top to bottom.”
Despite the incidents of Sept. 19, Kelusky said, the statistics show construction is getting safer and that the construction sector in the province is developing a more integrated safety culture.
Responding to the comment urging that more be done, Kelusky said a major focus of his office is linking the diverse efforts of the health and safety community. His office has recently pledged to work with Ontario’s Industrial Health and Safety Association to undertake more research to be able to provide stronger tools to employers.
The approach to falls across the province in the last decade is a good example of how research can lead to program development and working with employers and employees to deliver results, Kelusky explained.
“What we want to do is supply labor and employers with more information other than, if you touch that it will hurt you,” he said, referring to electrical hazards. “We did that with falls and touch wood that seems to be going well.”
Looking ahead, Kelusky said, there are positive signs from Queen’s Park with the auditor general conducting a much-needed review of health and safety programs, the government reviewing the WSIB and signals from the new Minister of Labor, Monte McNaughton, that he is keenly interested in health and safety and working collaboratively with stakeholders. That’s on top of the WSIB’s new Health and Safety Excellence Program and the continuing growth of COR.
Tar 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.
Canton, OH – A Fresh Mark employee died recently after his leg was caught in a waste grinder. Ohio’s Stark County Coroner’s Office stated that 62-year-old Samuel Martinez stepped into a chute and was caught in a waste grinder at the meat processing plant outside of Cleveland. Authorities say he died at the scene.
Fresh Mark Inc. supplies grocery stores, restaurants, and food service companies with bacon, ham, hot dogs and deli meats.
Fresh Mark officials are working with authorities to determine the cause of the accident.
Machine safety is crucial to workplace safety. Machine Safety and Lockout Tagout procedures, training, and awareness save lives, maintain production schedules, and keep machinery operational on a daily basis and are the foundation of a safe and efficient workplace.
Singapore – MW Group faces a $200,000 fine resulting from a fatal workplace electrocution. Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has ruled that a professional Arc Flash Risk Assessment and safe work procedures could have prevented the 2013 fatal electrocution of a worker at the MW Group Pte Ltd’s Pantech Business Hub.
Following a five day trial, MW Group Pte Ltd was convicted for workplace safety and health lapses. The director of the local Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate stated that the employer knew that the technicians were exposed to the risk of electrocution, yet MW Group failed to provide workers with a step-by-step guide on how to do the job safely.
On the day of the electrocution, a MW Group employee was asked to test and calibrate the ARS machine. The worker held a high voltage probe to test the ARS from 2kV to 12kV and during the test he fell backwards and became unconscious. He died later that day, with the cause of death certified as electrocution.
MW Group, an equipment calibration and testing company, is being fined for failing to conduct a specific risk assessment and establish safe work procedures for the calibration and testing of an arc reflection system (ARS) machine. Safety investigations revealed that although MW Group had conducted a generic risk assessment for electrical testing prior to the accident and electrocution was identified as the only hazard, no control measures were put in place.
Being able to have access to some quality management software can help employers to effectively manage any potential hazards in their business to ensure that accidents like this don’t occur again. It can help to perform audits, inspections, and assessments to help control findings. This software may be able to limit anyone else getting injured like this again.
Ultimately, there is no denying that putting emergency planning measures into place is the only way to prevent future disasters similar to the event described above. Moreover, Emergency planning and response efforts enable workers to discover unrecognized hazardous conditions that can aggravate an emergency situation so that work can be carried out to eliminate them.
Additionally, the planning process may bring to light deficiencies, such as the lack of resources (equipment, trained personnel, supplies), or items that can be corrected before an emergency occurs. In short, an emergency plan promotes safety awareness and shows that an organization is committed to the safety of all workers.
The Energy Market Authority, in its investigations into the accident, concluded that no proper test fixtures were set up before the start of the high voltage calibration works. Additionally, it was determined that the worker did not maintain a safe working distance of approximately 1.5m from the “live” terminals.
The Ministry of Manpower stated that as the DC output voltage level of the ARS gradually increased, this difference between the worker’s body and the probe to test the ARS he was holding resulted in a flashover, or arc flash – a dangerous type of electrical explosion.
Singapore’s director of occupational safety and health inspectorate said that “The employer knew that the technicians were exposed to the risk of electrocution…yet failed to provide the technicians with a step-by-step guide on how to do the job safely.”
Cusseta, AL – Ajin USA, Alliance Total Solutions, and Joynus Staffing Corp., have been issued fines of over $2.5 million by the Department of Labor. The auto parts supplier and the two staffing agencies it employed were issued 27 separate OSHA citations for safety violations following the investigation of the June 2016 death of Regina Allen Elsea.
The fines and citations came in response to the death of a 20-year-old worker who was crushed to death in a robotic machine. Tragically, the accident took place just two weeks before the woman’s wedding.
OSHA’s investigators reported that Elsea and three coworkers entered a robotic station to clear a sensor after the assembly line stopped. The robot within unexpectedly restarted, and the woman was crushed to death inside the machine.
Ajin USA makes parts for Hyundai and Kia and employs around 700 workers at it’s Cusseta plant. Alliance and Joynus, with offices in Opelika (AL), provide about 250 temporary workers to Ajin USA, as reported in a DOL statement.
OSHA is calling this a “senseless tragedy,” and has determined that the fatality could have been prevented by following federally mandated safety precautions such as lockout/tagout and machine guarding.
Citations and causes of the accident included the following: Failure to utilize energy control procedures to prevent machinery from starting up during maintenance and servicing; workers’ exposure to caught-in, struck-by and crushing hazards by allowing them to enter a robotic cell without shutting down and securing hazardous stored energy according to safety procedures; Failure to provide safety locks to isolation hazardous energy; and employee exposure to crushing and amputation hazards due to improper machine guarding.
Lebanon, TN – Lockout training and written procedures could have saved the life of Carlex Glass America worker Catherine White.
White, 51, of Lebanon (TN) died in an industrial accident last week after suffering a severe head injury at the Carlex Glass America plant. Local police reported that the employee had encountered problems with a work station printer. According to police, White “put her head inside the machine in an attempt to address the issue when the printer suddenly initiated its work cycle, most likely due to White inadvertently activating the machine’s sensors as if the next windshield had entered the machine.” During the process, White suffered a severe head injury. Paramedics arrived shortly afterward and pronounced her dead.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce is investigating the fatal industrial accident.
White had worked for Carlex Glass America for just under 18 years. Most recently, she worked as a production technician operating equipment used to manufacture windshields.
Los Angeles, CA – Bumble Bee Foods will pay a record $6 million to settle criminal charges filed after a worker burned to death in a Lockout/Tagout accident at their Santa Fe Springs (CA) plant in 2012.
This six million dollar settlement represents the largest payout in the criminal prosecution of a workplace safety case involving a single victim in California, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Under the settlement agreements, Bumble Bee will spend $3 million to buy new ovens at its Santa Fe Springs plant. The new ovens will not require that employees enter the machines, and Bumble Bee will be required to implement further safety measures. They will also pay $1.5 million in restitution to the family of victim Jose Melena, $750,000 to the district attorney’s environmental enforcement fund, and another $750,000 in additional fines, penalties and court costs.
Once it complies with those conditions, Bumble Bee (which is owned by private equity firm Lion Capital LLP) will be allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge, according to the district attorney’s office.
“While this resolution will help bring closure with the district attorney’s office, we will never forget the unfathomable loss of our colleague Jose Melena and we are committed to ensuring that employee safety remains a top priority at all our facilities,” Bumble Bee said in a written statement.
The plant’s director of operations, Angel Rodriguez, has agreed to perform 320 hours of community service, pay $11,400 in fines and other penalties and take workplace safety classes. If he completes those conditions he will be allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor rather than serving 3 years in prison.
Under a separate agreement, Saul Florez, the plant’s former safety manager, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to criminal safety violations and was sentenced to three years probation. Florez was also ordered to complete 30 days of community labor, attend safety classes and pay $19,000 in fines. Upon completion of those conditions he will be eligible to have his felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor, prosecutors said.