Kentucky, USA- The family of a Kentucky man killed in a workplace incident has filed a lawsuit against his employer, GE Appliances, as well as other parties.
Steve Herring, who has worked for GE Appliances for more than two decades, died in February after being pinned by machinery while working on a refrigerator-building assembly line. News sources are reporting that the state OSHA’s investigation into the workplace incident found that it could have been caused by an inadvertent activation of an improperly positioned gate interlock control.
The lawsuit filed in Jefferson Circuit Court last week names General Electric Company, Design Safety Engineering Inc., Doerfer Corperation, Doerfer Acquisition Company, JR Automation Technologies LLC, Haier US Appliance Solutions Inc. and Kentucky resident Mark Miller as defendants.
The lawsuit claims that the assembly line Herring was working on was “unreasonably dangerous” and in “defective condition.” It alleges that there were no instructions or warnings about the hazards on the line — and that the companies being sued were aware of the defects. The suit requests punitive and compensatory damages.
According to Kentucky OSHA, GE made changes to the safety programming on an assembly line that was identical to the one at which Herring was pinned following a 2014 incident. However, the company didn’t fix the line where Herring worked until after Herring died.
An inspection conducted by the agency after the fatality resulted in GE being cited for seven safety violations and fined $98,000, which the company is appealing.
Arlington, VA- Prompted by reports of three recent fatalities involving electricity, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a safety alert.
Electricity has killed three people in the mining industry since August 7, 2019.
An electrician contacted an energized component of a 4,160 VAC electrical circuit while adjusting the linkage between the disconnect lever and the internal components of the panel that supplied power to the plant feed belt motors. A contract electrician contacted an energized 120 VAC conductor while working inside a fire suppression system’s electrical
panel. An electrician contacted an exposed energized connector while troubleshooting a 995 VAC flooded bed scrubber motor circuit on-board a continuous mining machine.
MSHA offers numerous best practices for electrical incident prevention. Among them:
-Perform lockout/tagout procedures on circuits before working on electrical equipment.
-Don’t rush, and never work alone. Talk with co-workers and confirm your plan is safe.
-Identify and control all hazardous energy sources before conducting tasks, and follow safe work procedures.
-Train miners on equipment they may use.
-Always perform troubleshooting without power. If you must troubleshoot an energized circuit, use properly rated personal protective equipment to prevent hazards.
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.
Santa Ana, CA – Cal/OSHA announced fines of over a quarter of a million dollars against Aardvark Clay & Supplies this week. The fines are the result of Cal/OSHA’s investigation into a 2018 worker death at the facility which has been attributed to willful failure to properly guard equipment and lack of lockout/tagout training.
Enrique Garcia-Vazques (18) died in a workplace accident at the Santa Ana (CA) clay products business on Sept. 20, 2018 when he became fatally entangled in a clay manufacturing machine called a pug mill. According to reports, Garcia-Vazques was packaging clay blocks after they were cut to size when he became caught in the unguarded mixing blades of the machine as he attempted to identify why the clay stopped traveling through the extruder. According to Cal/OSHA’s report, Enrique Vasquez Garcia sustained amputation, puncture and asphyxia-related injuries in the workplace accident.
Cal/OSHA found that machine safety guards had been purposely removed from the industrial mixer and that the worker had not received training on the machine prior to the accident. Local emergency responders tried to free Garcia-Vazques from the equipment, but sadly, in the end he was declared dead at the scene.
According to said Cal/OSHA’s statement,“Pug mills have rotating blades that can cause amputations and fatally injure employees…Employers must ensure all machinery and its parts are properly guarded, and employees are effectively trained to prevent tragic accidents like this.” Aardvark Clay & Supplies uses the industrial pug mills to manufacture and mix clay.
Investigators with California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health found that all four of the pug mills in Aardvark’s Santa Ana shop had unguarded openings exposing employees to the moving parts. This is in direct violation of safety regulations requiring mixers to have a cover to prevent employees’ hands from entering the machine during operation. This willful failure to guard machinery was cited as one of the willful-serious violations for which Aardvark is being held accountable.
Five violations were levied against Aardvark Clay & Supplies, along with a grand total of $250,160 in proposed penalties. Among the violations, one was categorized as willful-serious accident-related, one was classified as willful-serious, two were deemed serious, and one was general. Accident-related violations are cited when the injury, illness, or fatality is caused by the violation. Serious violations are cited when there is a “realistic possibility” that death or serious harm could result from the hazard created by the violation.
The state of California requires employers to conduct and document inspection of safety hazards as a part of their state-mandated Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Employers whose workplaces feature machines with moving parts, such as mixers, are also required to train their employees in Machine Guarding and Lockout/Tagout in an effort to prevent exactly the type of accident that killed Garcia-Vazques.
Aardvark Clay & Supplies was found to have failed to effectively train workers on the hazards involved with operating their machinery, and then found remiss in identifying and correcting their machine safety hazards. Machine safety guards were provided by equipment manufacturer, but Cal/OSHA found that Aardvark had removed the guards. Investigators documented evidence of fabricated guards having been added to the machines at some point in their operation, but these were found to have been later removed when the employer “believed they interfered with the rate of production.”
For this reason, Cal/OSHA categorized Aardvark’s violation as willful. Willful violations are cited when the employer is aware of the law and still violates it or is aware of a hazardous condition and takes no reasonable steps to address it.
Reynoldsburg, OH – In a fatal workplace accident this month, an employee was crushed between an expandable conveyor belt and a wall of boxes that had been loaded onto a truck at the L Brands facility outside of Columbus (OH).
Two L Brands employees were loading boxes of Bath and Body Works products onto a truck using an expandable conveyor when one became pinned between the machine and the stacked boxes and was crushed. Harvey Beavers was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. OSHA is investigating the fatal workplace accident.
Beavers is reported to have been pinned inside the truck for approximately 10 minutes before he was extricated. CPR was performed, he was transported to the hospital, and later pronounced dead. A co-worker was responsible for placing packages on the conveyer belt into the trailer. That employee reported noticing a red light above the conveyer, signifying a machinery malfunction or stoppage.
According to OSHA, Beavers was pinned facing the wall of boxes with the conveyer pressing into his lower back. The end of the conveyor that was against Beaver’s back contained all controls for moving the conveyer in and out of the trailer, as well as the emergency shut off. With the machine’s controls at his back, Beavers was unable to shut the expandable conveyor down himself and rescuers were forced to spend precious minutes unloading boxes full of product to get to him.
OSHA is actively investigating the fatality. L Brands Inc is a Columbus-based fashion retailer which includes brands like Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.
Edgewood, FL – An employee of an Orlando-area marble and granite facility died after being crushed by a machine he was cleaning earlier this month.
The worker has been identified as Shawn Knowles (age 44). Emergency responders were initially called to handle an arm injury, after co-workers found Knowles hurt but conscious. Unfortunately, he subsequently lost consciousness from the shock of the injury and went into cardiac arrest.
According to area fire rescue personnel, Knowles is reported to have been hosing down a water trench surrounding an automated machine when he was pushed into the wedge by the heavy device. He was crushed by a beam and a piece of the machinery. Firefighters arrived and began resuscitation efforts. Knowles was taken to the Orlando Regional Medical Center where he later died.
Yallourn, Victoria, Australia – A fatal explosion at an Australian Power Station is said to have been the result of a phase-to-phase arc flash. A unit controller with more than 30 years’ experience was critically injured during the explosion in the southeastern-most state of Australia which lead to his death the next day.
EnergyAustralia has identified arc flash as the cause of the explosion at the Yallourn Power Station, however a local union representative is not confident in that explanation and staff at the power station say they are afraid to go to work.
Graeme Edwards died after a high-voltage circuit breaker he was working on exploded last month. Edwards was re-installing a high-voltage circuit breaker on one of the plant’s four generation units when the explosion occurred, a procedure known as “racking.” EnergyAustralia stated that racking is a routine job but potentially hazardous. In this case, the unit burst into flames that burnt most of Edwards’ body. The worker was flown to hospital in a critical condition but died a day later.
EnergyAustralia said it believed the “sudden electrical discharge” was caused by a “phase-to-phase arc flash.” However, they have yet to determine what caused the short circuit which is the source of union and worker worries about the safety of the workplace.
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 and can result in an arc-plasma fireball with temperatures in excess of 35,000° F. For reference, the surface of the sun is 9000° F. These extreme temperatures cause rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. The arc flash/blast can vaporize all solid copper conductors as they expand up to 67,000 times original volume. The arc flash produces fire, intense light, pressure waves, and flying shrapnel.
Yallorn Power Station workers will not be asked to use affect equipment involved in the incident until EnergyAustralia determines that it is safe to do so. An executive of Yallourn Power Station has said that risk assessments are being conducted and that all safety controls will be reviewed prior to resuming work.
A representative of the union which advocates for the workers at Yallourn Power station has voiced concerns that workers were not provided with the most up-to-date protective gear, including arc flash suits, similar to what bomb disposal workers use.
Cookeville, TN – Police report that a loose valve cap has caused the death of an employee at M&E Industries.
A valve cap on a highly pressurized tank came loose and hit M&E Industries employee Dewey Mayberry in the chest, critically injuring him. Mayberry was taken to a local medical center where he was pronounced dead.
Dewey Mayberry, age 65, had worked at the M&E Industries plant since 2003. He is reported to have been performing his typical daily job duties when the accident occurred. Local police describe the valve cap as being thick metal and estimate it to have been the size of a “salad plate…about six inches in diameter.”
The M&E Industries facility in Cookeville produces refueling equipment such as filters, filter housings, and filter separators.
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.