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.
Wauwatosa, WI – An employee at AAM Casting was killed while working on the facility’s rooftop HVAC system. 61-year-old William Walker died after being pulled into a moving fan at the Wisconsin foundry. A co-worker told investigators that the fatal accident could be traced back to Walker’s failure to “tag out” the equipment.
According to the medical examiner’s report, Walker was working on the roof in small building that housed an air handling unit. Each air unit consisted of a set of stairs leading into a separate room. Walker was found in a small steel fan shack that controlled ventilation for the building.
Investigators were told by a person on the scene that Walker was supposed to have “tagged out” after finishing his task, but neglected to do so and was fatally “swallowed up” by the fan. Another worker heard commotion and found Walker. That employee shut down the unit and called 911. The local medical examiner is investigating the exact cause of death.
A spokesperson represneting AAM Casting said the victim, William Walker, was an outside contractor working at the facility.
According to OSHA, nearly 3 million US workers service equipment as a part of their job. These employees face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout (LOTO) is not properly implemented. Compliance with the federal lockout/tagout standard is estimated to prevent 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries annually. In a study conducted by the United Auto Workers (UAW), 20% of fatalities that occurred among their membership over a span of 22 years were attributable to inadequate lockout/tagout procedures.
The eternal battle is production versus safety, and at the very center of this is lockout, or better – avoiding lockout. The complaint, by both production and maintenance is that locking out equipment takes too long, or if they lockout, getting the machine back on line could be difficult. They will also argue that the machines have interlock controls that provide effective levels of protection and allow workers to efficiently (and safely) complete their work. The truth: maybe, maybe not.
Interlock systems (machine sensors)
An interlock is a device that will prevent one element from changing (moving), due to a state in another element. Interlocks in the work setting include electromagnetic switches, RFID proximity switches, light curtains, trap key interlock’s, etc. Interlocks open control circuits but do not isolate equipment from hazardous energy.
A good example to understand interlock is to examine your home washing machine. Washing machines have limit switches (newer models have both limit switches and lid locks) that would not allow the washing machine to run if the lid was in the open position. Raise your hand if as a child growing up you used a pen or a pencil (maybe your finger) to push that limit switch and watch the washing machine go around (author hand in the air). The limit switch (interlock safety device) keeps the machine from moving, but does it isolate it from the energy source? The limit switch does not unplug the electrical cord and turn the cold and hot water valves to the off position. And under the right circumstances (accidentally pushing down on the limit switch with your hand), the interlock can fail in its purpose and activate the machine
Interlocks have been used for decades and are one of the most misunderstood and improperly used safety devices installed on equipment. Their intended use, reliability and integrity from a safety perspective has evolved, where now there are Category 1, 2, 3 and 4 systems. These safety devices were to prevent accidents. They do not provide the equivalent level of protection that lockout provides, which is the OSHA standard. In our example of the washing machine, in terms of current OSHA language, as a child I was bypassing a guard and defeating a safety device. Technically, these are now considered Category 1 Interlock Controls. Similar devices are used every day under the guise of providing effective protection against the expected (or unexpected) start up or release of hazardous energy. Sadly, workers are injured and killed every year due to the failure or misuse of these perceived safety devices.
Interlock systems applied
Your company has Machine “X”, which is currently guarded by Plexiglas around all working parts, with interlocked access doors for workers to access. Operators are charged daily with clearing jams during their shift, which requires the worker to open an interlocked access door. This will stop the machine from running and allow the worker to clear the jam. When completed, the worker closes the door and the machine returns to normal operation.
This scenario plays out every day in companies across the United States and yet, this is in violation of the OSHA standard if the accidental energization of the machine would create a hazard for the worker. Machine “X” is still energized, and we are asking the worker to bypass a guard (they reach through the plane of the Plexiglas), place part of their body in the danger zone or at the point of operation. In this case, lockout should be applied because of the nature of the task and the measures of control in place. These types of interlocks are installed to protect workers in case they were suddenly exposed (door is opened) to an area where body parts should be placed. Over time, these interlocks have been integrated (wrongly) into the daily routines and tasks of production and maintenance where sentiment is that this is “safe” and “compliant.” Neither is true.
These types of task are often repeated several times per shift, to several times per hour. If the worker was to lockout the machine each time, they would spend a large amount of their work day locking the machine out and then returning to service. OSHA leaves it to the employer to determine (and document) what is acceptable in terms of protection when it comes to Alternative Measures of Control. The ANSI Z244.1 standard has recently provided in its 2017 update some guidance on how to determine if the Interlock Control Devices provide equivalent level of protection.
Much has advanced in the technology, reliability and integrity of Interlock systems over the past two decades. The industry has seen the development and deployment of Category 3 and Category 4 Interlock Control Devices. These systems have been proven to increase productivity (uptime) and decrease lockout (downtime), but they do come with a requirement of significant investment in time and resource to install, implement and maintain, and still do not meet OSHA requirements. From the scenario on Machine X, it would be a wise investment to install an interlock system to save a few minutes, several times an hour — which then does increase your production uptime AND protect your workers from hazardous energy.
Too often we find ourselves in conversations with customers who are looking for solutions to avoid lockout as a means to increase production uptime. The majority of the industry has equipment that requires three or fewer locks/devices to achieve a zero-energy state. There is a good argument to use Interlock Control Devices in a particular industry, with particular equipment and involving particular tasks. Invest and protect wisely for true gains in uptime and worker safety.
Queensbury, NY – A worker injured while clearing a machine jam at a wood products facility in upstate NY has prompted a federal safety investigation. OSHA is citing the former RWS Manufacturing Inc. plant for seven safety violations documented during inspections in November and February, stemming from reports of an employee’s hospitalization. The wood shaving plant currently faces $59,577 in fines, and has been fined multiple times for alleged safety violations in the past.
Reports show an employee suffered a “work-related inpatient hospitalization” from a wood shaving machine where federal safety inspectors documented a lack of safety equipment of the type that would have been used when clearing a jam on the machine or performing other maintenance.
These safety devices and procedures are known as Lockout/Tagout (or LOTO). Lockout procedures provide detailed instruction on how to isolate and lock each energy source for a given piece of equipment, helping to prevent the unexpected startup of machinery and equipment, and preventing the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities. OSHA requires equipment specific lockout procedures be written for each piece of equipment including any prime movers, and machinery and equipment with mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, electrical, thermal, and any other energy source.
There are approximately 3 million American workers tasked with servicing equipment. 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 procedures.
The OSHA investigation into this wood product plant marks the third time in the past four years that OSHA has fined the company over safety inspections, with a total of more than $360,000 in fines imposed during that period.
Making sure your industrial property is OSHA compliant is vital to your business. If you’re found to have any violations, you will have to pay a hefty fine. OSHA pretty much covers every part of your business from walkways to employee training. They even have regulations on industrial doors so you better make sure you’ve gone to a reliable INDUSTRIAL DOOR COMPANY! Every year, OSHA shares the most commonly cited violations to try to name and shame the worse areas of safety. This way, businesses will hopefully pay more attention to them in the future.
Lockout/Tagout violations were the #5 most commonly issued OSHA violation in 2016, the #2 most common willful violation, and the #4 most commonly cited serious violation in the past year as presented by Patrick Kapust (deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs) at the 2016 National Safety Council Congress & Expo in Anaheim, CA.
In sharing OSHA’s Top 10 list of most frequently cited violations for 2016, Kapust recommends that each safety manager looks at the list and compare it to their own workplace. Since these are the most common violations OSHA is finding in the US, Kapust suggests that EHS managers ask themselves: “Would they find these at my workplace?”
Fall Protection was the most cited OSHA violation for the sixth year in a row. Hazard Communication and Scaffolding were second and third most common, which is unchanged from 2015’s top 10 most cited. Respiratory Protection and Lockout/Tagout were the next most common, in fourth and fifth position.
OSHA’s standards for Lockout/Tagout (or LOTO) outline the minimum performance requirements for the control of hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment.
While Lockout violations are the fifth most common overall, LOTO was the #2 most common willful violation in 2016. Willful violations are defined as those “committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and requirements.”
Additionally, Lockout/Tagout represented the #4 most common serious violation issued in 2016. Serous violations are those which pose a “substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.”