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.
Fort St. John, British Colombia – Peace River Hydro Partners has been fined $662,102.48 by WorkSafeBC. The fine was imposed on August 21, 2019, after a worker sustained an electrical shock injury. A worker was able to access the main circuit breaker in a high-voltage electrical cabinet for tunneling equipment.
According to WorkSafeBC, the main electrical breaker extensions on the exterior cabinet door were not functioning, the de-energization switches had been circumvented and the main breaker switch-box isolation covers were in disrepair.
WorkSafeBC staff also determined that it was a standard work practice at this site to access the main circuit breaker without following lockout procedures.
A stop-use order was issued for the tunneling equipment because Peace River Hydro Partners failed to ensure its equipment was capable of safely performing its functions, and was unable to provide its workers with the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety.
WorkSafeBC says these were both repeated violations.
This is the largest fine WorkSafeBC can issue under B.C. legislation. The report from WorkSafeBC did not disclose the condition of the worker or the exact date of the incident.
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.
Sydney, Australia- A 30-year-old man was crushed to death at a pallet factory in Sydney’s west, one of three industrial accidents across the city on Wednesday. Ambulance crews were called to a pallet factory at Forrester Road in St Marys about 5:40am, where they found a 30-year-old man with severe head injuries. Paramedics treated the man at the scene but he could not be saved.
As mentioned, this was only one of the multiple recent industrial accidents in this area of Australia this week.
In the city’s east, a man is in a critical condition following a workplace accident at an address in Point Piper. Emergency crews were called to a home on Longworth Avenue about 7:30am, after receiving reports a man had fallen 8 to 10 meters from a scaffolding fall.
In Pyrmont, a worker has been taken to hospital with head injuries after he was struck by falling pipes.
Mobile, AL – OSHA has issued fines of over $75,000 to an Alabama packaging manufacturer for failing to protect employees from the hazards of moving parts. Ampac Mobile Holdings LLC (operating as ProAmpac) was found to have been exposing employees to caught-in and struck-by hazards at their Mobile (AL) facility. Federal workplace safety investigators are charging $75,156 in penalties for inadequate machine guarding and lockout/tagout procedures violations.
OSHA was alerted to the Ampac/ProAmpac facility after an employee suffered a severe hand injury as a result of getting caught in a piece of equipment. In a separate accident, an Ampac employee’s finger was lacerated when struck by moving machine parts.
In the course of their investigation, OSHA determined that Ampac failed to use proper machine guarding measures, and failed to control hazardous energy by implementing effective lockout/tagout procedures.
Unfortunately, these two accidents could have been prevented. As OSHA’s Acting Mobile Area Office Director stated, “A comprehensive safety and health program, includ[ing] an evaluation and correction for amputation hazards, could have identified and prevented these injuries.”
An estimated 3 million American workers service equipment in the course of their jobs. These employees face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout is not effectively implemented. Compliance with the federal lockout/tagout standard prevents approximately 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Additionally, it has been estimated that workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.
Lakewood, NJ – A preventable lockout/tagout accident at a New Jersey ice cream manufacturer has left one employee missing a finger and the company owing $103,000 in fines to OSHA.
OSHA fined the ice cream maker, Mister Cookie Face, located near Rutgers University, $103,000 after an employee lost a finger and fractured another while performing maintenance on a machine. An inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor found numerous “machine safety hazards,” according to a release from the department.
The department cited the company, which manufactures ice cream bars and sandwiches, for not having a safety lockout procedure on the machine that would have prevented it from starting unexpectedly during maintenance activities.
Lockout 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 injuring a worker. As OSHA’s regional director stated, “this injury could have been avoided with worker training and the use of lockout/tagout procedures.”
Mister Cookie Face was also penalized for not making sure employees used “personal protective equipment,” not providing an eyewash station where employees used corrosive chemicals and for exposing its employees to “bloodborne pathogen hazards.”
The Mister Cookie Face is owned by Fieldbrook Foods Corp of Dunkirk, New York.
Green Bay, WI – JBS Green Bay faces $221,726 in federal workplace safety fines after equipment violations led to a lockout/tagout accident that injured an employee’s hand. OSHA issued one willful violation and 10 serious violations after their investigation documented a lack of machine guarding and lockout failures at the Green Bay (WI) beef processing facility.
According to the Department of Labor, a JBS employee “reached into a machine to move a box when the rake activated and caught his left hand, pulling it into the machine.” The employee suffered a fracture, puncture wounds, lacerations, and a pinched nerve as a result.
More than half of the $221,726 total fine was for the willful violation. OSHA defines willful violations as those “in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.”
JBS was cited for not having machine guards which protect workers from dangerous parts and moving machinery. OSHA’s inspection also noted a serious violation related to failure to turn off machinery prior to maintenance or service work.
Another of the serious violations was for not having “developed and documented” lockout tagout procedures. These written documents outline equipment-specific instructions for how to safely de-energize equipment. Lockout/Tagout safety measures keep workers safe while they perform maintenance and service tasks like the act of clearing a jammed machine that precipitated this accident.
A transport company has been ordered to pay more than $63,000 in fines and court fee’s after a worker’s hand was crushed between two containers that were being moved with a forklift in Western Australia.
Mineral Trans WA and another entity operated Cranes Haulage in August 2014 when a truck driver transported sea containers to a yard in Esperance, Western Australia to be unloaded with a forklift by the general manager.
The truck driver was releasing twist locks that attached two containers when they became stuck, and as they were separated his left hand was crushed. He was transported to a local area hospital. He required skin grafts and pins to repair open fractures.
Mineral Trans pleaded guilty in Esperance Magistrates Court to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace, and by that failure, caused serious harm to an employee.The company also admitted allowing an employee to operate a forklift without the appropriate licence.
Mineral Trans was fined a total of $58,000 and was also ordered to pay $5542 in costs.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns said, “the hazard should have been foreseen. The worker should have been prohibited from removing the twist locks from the bottom container until the top container was safely removed from the pedestrian area.”
Following the incident, Cranes Haulage stopped separating sea containers and the general manager has obtained an appropriate licence to operate a forklift.
Dickson, TN – On August 25, Dickson Electric Systems substation supervisor Zach Spicer suffered second-degree burns to his face and neck in an arc flash incident at the DES Old White Bluff Substation.
According to the victim’s sister-in-law, Spicer “was accessing a breaker cabinet, high voltage side when contact or an arc formed, causing an electrical fault that released heat and energy…He remembers stammering around and seeing everyone’s expression looking at him.”
Two days after the burns, doctors determined that Spicer had not lost his eyesight and during the skin graft surgery they were able to not only save his right hand, but also his fingertips.
Spicer remains at the Vanderbilt Medical Center Burn Unit where he has undergone three surgeries and numerous procedures.
A second Dickson Electric Systems employee also suffered severe burns to his face and neck in the incident. He was released the evening of the accident and is recovering at home.
An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion caused by 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.
Temperatures can exceed 35,000° F. For reference, the surface of the sun is 9000° F. These extreme temperatures rapid heat and expand surrounding air – the extreme change in pressure is known as an arc blast. The arc flash and blast will likely vaporize all solid copper conductors. These conductors expand up to 67,000 times their original volume when vaporized. The arc flash and blast produce fire, intense light, pressure waves, and flying shrapnel.
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. Proper safety and protection measures must be taken to limit the damage from an arc flash which include conducting an arc flash study, short circuit study, and NFPA 70E electrical safety training.
Pueblo, CO – After suffering a severe head injury during her time in a prison-work program, former Colorado inmate Kandy Fuelling is suing Pueblo Wood Products and the supervisor who allegedly had assured her that the saw was turned off.
When lumber got jammed on a conveyor belt at the Pueblo sawmill where she’d been working through a prison-work program, Fuelling obeyed the prodding of her foreman and fellow inmates. She climbed below the conveyor belt and reached toward the wood. Fellow inmates and on-site supervisors assured her that they had turned the saw off and it was safe to yank the lumber from under the conveyor belt.
According to documents filed at the U.S. District Court in Denver, “upon dislodging the wood, and without warning, a saw came straight at Ms. Fuelling’s head, slicing through her helmet (and scalp, causing her to bleed profusely). Ms. Fuelling screamed as loud as she could, but her voice was muffled by the noise of the saw.”
Fuelling, 48, is also suing the Colorado Department of Corrections and several of it’s employees, including those who drove her back to La Vista Correctional Facility instead of taking her to a hospital. The lawsuit says the still-bleeding and screaming woman should have been rushed immediately to a hospital emergency room. Once she was seen at a nearby hospital, Fuelling had a 4- to 5-inch scalp laceration and received 15 stitches.
At the time of the accident, Fuelling was serving prison time for escape and being an habitual traffic offender. Fuelling has since been released from prison and placed in community corrections.
The lawsuit alleges that “corners were cut and on-the-job-safety training took a back seat to profit margins earned by Pueblo Wood, CCI and DOC.” Lawyers claim that Fuelling’s safety training consisted of receiving four pages of tips including advice for how to avoid avoid back injuries and getting cuts from sharp objects.