“Fall Protection – What’s Required Where?” – “Scissor Lifts”

scissor-lifts-and-harnesses-fall-protection-or-no-protection

First, I want to start off with the “scissor lift” dilemma and confusion. If you talk to two different people, you’ll get two differing opinions. Here are my thoughts on this:

I have watched while the battle has raged over whether the use of personal fall arrest harnesses by scissor lift operators is appropriate. The rationale on each side of the issue; pro and con, is intelligent, compelling, and complete with opinions from well informed, knowledgeable people.

The core argument from the pro-harness side stems from the assertion that scissor lift operators are more or less subject to the same falling hazards as anyone else working at height, so why not wear a harness?

On the con-harness side of things, some of the many the arguments follow the logic that if a scissor lift operator who is tethered to the unit goes over the guardrail, the resulting force(s) exerted on the machine when his/her weight jerks to a stop at the end of the lanyard’s travel could be enough to cause the unit to topple, sending it and the operator down. In addition, so I’m told, as the unit plummets down with the operator in tow, the lanyard serves to worsen things by “slingshotting” the operator into the ground and possibly under the machine, resulting in even greater injury than if he/she were able to free fall or jump clear.

If that’s not enough, neither OSHA regulations or ANSI/SIA standards require the use of personal fall protection harnesses for operators of scissor lifts. In fact, in many cases manufacturers do not provide an anchor point to connect the snap hook of a lanyard to and, OSHA prohibits tying off to a guard rail as per 29CFR 1926.502(d)(23)); “Personal fall arrest systems shall not be attached to guardrail systems.”

Some other issues that I have heard from the con side have to do with things like how wearing a harness restricts the movement of the operator or that wearing a harness may actually lull the operator into a false sense of security. I could go on, but I won’t.

I am going to go on record here and state that I believe scissor lift operators should be required to wear a personal fall restraint system (PFRS) consisting of a full body harness and non-shock absorbing lanyard provided there is an approved anchor point to connect it to. (In fact, if you dig into the OSHA regulations, you’ll find that “If the scissor lift manufacturer provides tie off anchor points at the base of the guardrail system, and the manufacturer’s user instructions require them to be used, then you need to be tied off with a PFRS”.)

Allow me approach each point of the “con” argument and, for what it’s worth, chip in my two cents.

First of all, take note of the suggestion for using a fall restraint harness rather than a fall arrest harness. Fall arrest systems are designed to stop a fall in progress while fall restraint systems prevent a fall from occurring… big difference. No fall means no excessive force on the unit, therefore no tip-over. The operator stays on the platform and the lift stays upright. Granted, a fall restraint harness may restrict the operator’s motion depending on the type of anchor point and how much mobility is actually required, but this is a fair trade in exchange for preventing a fall and possible fatality.

As for the “slingshot” effect, well, the laws of physics do not support that theory. A few centuries ago, Galileo discovered something we know today as, the law of falling bodies. Without going into great detail here, it basically states that everything that falls accelerates toward the earth at a rate of 32 feet per second/per second, until reaching peak terminal velocity (top speed), which is about 120 mph. So, if a scissor lift tips over, the operator and the platform are going to travel toward the ground at approximately the same speed; there will be no “slingshot” effect and certainly no need to jump from the platform. In addition, an operator wearing a PFRS will not sustain further injury because of multiple impacts with the ground from bouncing after the initial impact with the ground.

On the topic of jumping clear of the unit, there are serious concerns about the practicality of that notion. Even a conditioned athlete that is prepared and ready for the unit to tip would have difficulty picking the right moment to leap clear. When an aerial lift goes over it typically happens unexpectedly and quickly. The average operator is unlikely to have the physical prowess or presence of mind to do the right thing at the right time and even if he/she did, they would still have the actual fall to the ground with which to contend.

That brings us to OSHA regulations which, after all, are the law and the law says you don’t have to wear a harness to operate a scissor lift. I am going to avoid getting wrapped up in reg’s here the same way I do when I train operators, suffice to say that we are not attempting to determine if we have to wear it, but whether we should. Allow me to share a bit of wisdom that I usually impart to operators when they get a bit carried away with the law, which is; when you operate aerial lift devices, the only law you need to concern yourself with is the law of gravity. Respect for occupational safety and health laws will affect your relationship with OSHA while respect for gravity will affect your relationship with the ground!

As far as harnesses giving operators a false sense of security, it shouldn’t. It should give them a real sense of security. It is a simple fact that an operator wearing a PFRS is less likely to be killed by falling from the platform, which in itself is reassuring. It is also a fact that more scissor lift operators are killed by falling from the platform than by tipping the unit over and besides, if the unit goes over for any reason, the effect on the operator will be ugly with or without a PFRS.

The bottom line here is that every situation, or in this case, each use of the scissor lift has to be looked at from a different approach, so good judgment and the use of best practices are imperative.

9-23-2016 – Here is a link to a Scissor Lift Manufacturers letter, requiring the use of Fall Protection while using their product. https://goo.gl/hi2mvw

“Why Lock-Out, Tag-Out IS Vitally Important” #LOTO #Safety

Caution: Somewhat Graphic Photo – Note: This Photo is the property of Jack Benton, and may not be used without written consent!

Why LOTO is Vitally Important 3

Why LOTO is Vitally Important 

Note: The photo above is not intended for page views or shock value as I don’t believe that those methods truly teach you anything in and of themselves. I don’t know the particulars of the above accident, but I do know that the lack of a proper lock out – tag out (control of hazardous energy) policy and procedure contributed to the accident.

This is always on OSHA’s Top 10 Violations list on a yearly basis, typically coming in at number 2 each year in the total number of times cited. Please use the training information below to keep your employees safe and involved in this process at your workplace.

Remember to AUDIT your procedures more than once per year. LOTO can be a difficult procedure especially when your job or facility has large manufacturing equipment such as a multi-employee operated mile long paper mill versus many single employee operated machines.

Hopefully, the Temp Worker Without LOTO Training who lost his life on the first day of his new job and the LOTO Webinar below, as well as the other resources further down the page will help you to put together an appropriate LOTO policy and procedure for your company.

Ninety minutes into his first day on the first job of his life, Day Davis was called over to help at Palletizer No. 4 at the Bacardi bottling plant in Jacksonville, Fla. What happened next is an all-too-common story for temp workers working in blue-collar industries. Read the investigation: http://www.propublica.org/article/tem..

The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) Full Webinar 2016

What is hazardous energy?

Energy sources including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other sources in machines and equipment can be hazardous to workers. During the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment, the unexpected startup or release of stored energy can result in serious injury or death to workers.

What are the harmful effects of hazardous energy?

Workers servicing or maintaining machines or equipment may be seriously injured or killed if hazardous energy is not properly controlled. Injuries resulting from the failure to control hazardous energy during maintenance activities can be serious or fatal! Injuries may include electrocution, burns, crushing, cutting, lacerating, amputating, or fracturing body parts, and others.

  • A steam valve is automatically turned on burning workers who are repairing a downstream connection in the piping.
  • A jammed conveyor system suddenly releases, crushing a worker who is trying to clear the jam.
  • Internal wiring on a piece of factory equipment electrically shorts, shocking worker who is repairing the equipment.

Craft workers, electricians, machine operators, and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment routinely and face the greatest risk of injury. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.

What can be done to control hazardous energy?

Failure to control hazardous energy accounts for nearly 10 percent of the serious accidents in many industries. Proper lockout/tagout (LOTO) practices and procedures safeguard workers from hazardous energy releases. OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Fact Sheet* describes the practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment to prevent hazardous energy release. The OSHA standard for The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) (29 CFR 1910.147) for general industry outlines measures for controlling different types of hazardous energy. The LOTO standard establishes the employer’s responsibility to protect workers from hazardous energy. Employers are also required to train each worker to ensure that they know, understand, and are able to follow the applicable provisions of the hazardous energy control procedures:

  • Proper lockout/tagout (LOTO) practices and procedures safeguard workers from the release of hazardous energy. The OSHA standard for The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) (29 CFR 1910.147) for general industry, outlines specific action and procedures for addressing and controlling hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment. Employers are also required to train each worker to ensure that they know, understand, and are able to follow the applicable provisions of the hazardous energy control procedures. Workers must be trained in the purpose and function of the energy control program and have the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage and removal of the energy control devices.
  • All employees who work in an area where energy control procedure(s) are utilized need to be instructed in the purpose and use of the energy control procedure(s), especially prohibition against attempting to restart or reenergize machines or other equipment that are locked or tagged out.
  • All employees who are authorized to lockout machines or equipment and perform the service and maintenance operations need to be trained in recognition of applicable hazardous energy sources in the workplace, the type and magnitude of energy found in the workplace, and the means and methods of isolating and/or controlling the energy.
  • Specific procedures and limitations relating to tagout systems where they are allowed.
  • Retraining of all employees to maintain proficiency or introduce new or changed control methods.

OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Fact Sheet* describes the practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment to prevent the release of hazardous energy.

The control of hazardous energy is also addressed in a number of other OSHA standards, including Marine Terminals (1917 Subpart C), Safety and Health Regulations for Longshoring (1918 Subpart G), Safety and Health Regulations for Construction; Electrical (1926 Subpart K), Concrete and Masonry Construction (1926 Subpart Q), Electric Power Transmission and Distribution (1926 Subpart V), and General Industry; Electrical (1910 Subpart S), Special Industries (1910 Subpart R), and Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution (1910.269).

Highlights
  • Lockout-Tagout Interactive Training Program. OSHA eTool. Interactive tool to provide the user with an in-depth understanding of the LOTO standard, with three components: Tutorial, Hot Topics, and Case Studies.
  • Construction. OSHA eTool. Helps workers identify and control the hazards, including electrical hazards, that commonly cause the most serious construction injuries.
    • Electrical Incidents. Landing page for Electrical Incidents subpage of the Construction eTool, which identifies electrical hazards and recommends preventive measures.
  • Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution. OSHA eTool, (January, 2010). Assists workers in identifying and controlling workplace hazards.
Lockout/Tagout Concepts
Lockout/Tagout Program

Example elements of a lockout/tagout (LOTO) program are described in the OSHA standard for the control of hazardous energy (29 CFR 1910.147), along with these additional references.

Other Resources
Training
  • Lockout-Tagout Interactive Training Program. OSHA eTool. Interactive tool to provide the user with an in-depth understanding of the LOTO standard, with three components: Tutorial, Hot Topics, and Case Studies.
    • Case Studies. Presents a series of case studies for review, followed by related questions. Each of the case studies is based on descriptions of LOTO inspections derived from compliance interpretations, court decisions, Review Commission decisions, and inspection files.
  • Small Business Handbook (PDF). OSHA Publication 2209, (2005). Handbook is provided to owners, proprietors and managers of small businesses to assure the safety and health of workers.
  • Lockout/Tagout. National Ag Safety Database (NASD) Research Publications-11. Brief publication providing an overview of lockout/tagout, California laws and regulations, and training materials.
Additional Information
  • Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation Summaries. OSHA. Enables the user to search the text of Accident Investigation Summaries (OSHA-170 form) for words that may be contained in the text of the abstract or accident description.
  • Z244 Committee Information. American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).
  • Safety Alert: Control of Hazardous Energy – Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO) Procedures in Shipyard Employment*. OSHA and Shipbuilders Council of America, National Shipbuilding Research Program, and American Shipbuilding Association Alliances (now the Shipbuilding Group Alliance) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association and American Society of Safety Engineers Alliances, (February 2009). Safety Alert Fact Sheet that provides information on how to protect employees from hazardous energy. Also available in Spanish*.
  • Safety Alert: Electrocution and Shock Hazards in Shipyard Employment*. OSHA and Shipbuilders Council of America, National Shipbuilding Research Program, and American Shipbuilding Association Alliances (now the Shipbuilding Group Alliance) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association and American Society of Safety Engineers Alliances, (February 2008). Safety Alert Fact Sheet that provides information on how to protect employees from electrocution and shock hazards. Also available in Spanish*.
Related Safety and Health Topics

“New NFPA Video Underscores Long-Lasting Realities Of Home Fire Survivors”

FSI and NFPA Logo_w name and tag

On average, there are nearly 13,000 civilian fire injuries attributed to home fires each year.

In cooperation with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, NFPA has produced a new video underscoring the painful aftermath of these injuries. Burn care specialists from the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center, one of the premier burn care hospitals in the U.S., detail the frequency of home fire injuries and painstaking recovery of burn survivors. Their stories help underscore the arduous recovery and procedures survivors endure post-fire.

The video is the latest produced for NFPA’s Faces of Fire Campaign, a component of NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative that helps humanize North America’s home fire problem and highlights the necessity of fire sprinklers in new homes. We will be releasing a second video from our interviews with the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center specialists in the next few weeks and will alert you when it’s available.

Please help us spread the word about this important video by: 
Sharing the video link directly on social media

Embedding the video directly on a web page [use this code: http://a%20class=]

Source: NFPA Xchange By:  Fred Durso on Jan 4, 2017

“Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety”

OSHAupdate

Every October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the 2016 fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff.

One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, our inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.

More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline.

Consider this 2016 list a starting point for workplace safety:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and our top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures. Employers must take these issues seriously.

We also see far too many workers killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations are often the culprit here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse.

Respiratory protection is essential for preventing long term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. But we can see from our list of violations that not nearly enough employers are providing this needed protection and training.

The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial trucksafety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment.

Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known.

Our list of top violations is far from comprehensive. OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. And we urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, we have released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces.

We have many additional resources, including a wealth of information on our website and our free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs.

Thomas Galassi is the director of enforcement programs for OSHA.

“4 Character Traits Of Respected Safety Leaders”

safety-leadership-7

If you want to become an effective and respected safety leader, work on these personality traits.

Back in 2009, when Google first launched their Project Oxygen employee survey, they were looking for a way to help their managers be better. They were also looking for ways that managers and supervisors could help engage employees better.

What Google soon discovered from their employees is not what they had thought. Google’s managers were already incredibly technically proficient. But that’s not what Google’s employees necessarily wanted from their managers. Employees wanted more than technical knowledge. Employees wanted managers with great people skills.

Workplaces whose managers have great people skills have lower employee turnover and higher levels of engagement. But where do you as a supervisor or safety manager acquire good people-skills? It turns out, good people skills have much to do with character and personality traits.

There’s an assumption that you already have the basics of safety knowledge under your belt.That needs to be a given. If you don’t have the basics of safety already, you must get busy acquiring those skills. And there’s an assumption that you genuinely want to make your workplace better.

Here are four of the most critical personality traits to have to be able to make you more effective and respected in your supervisory and management duties in safety:

Kindness. You cannot have a successful safety culture without courtesy and respect at the very foundation. Kindness, as a personality trait, is at the foundation of courtesy and respect. It’s impossible to be genuinely courteous if you are mean-spirited. Kindness is crucial to being a respected safety leader. Treating people with kindness is not something you can fake for long. Eventually, you will tire of putting on a fake smile. You will be found out. Kindness comes from genuinely caring about people. When you can offer kindness to one person on a job site, and make the job site safe for one other person, you are being kind to every other person. Kindness is not weakness. It takes strength to openly care about others in a way that they feel it.

Integrity. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines integrity as the quality of being honest and fair; the state of being complete or whole. But in short-form, people know when someone lacks integrity – or when their integrity can be compromised. Supervisors and safety people with integrity refuse to allow excuses and blame to get in the way of carrying out their safety responsibilities. There are no shortcuts with people of integrity. People of integrity do what they say and say what they do. As the saying goes, they walk the walk. Front-line employees depend on their supervisors and safety people to have integrity. Integrity has a way of transcending a message of “how we do things ’round here.” Remember, employees will always be checking you out to see if you believe what you have to say. If you don’t believe it, your integrity will be suspect.

Humility. Again, like kindness, you can’t fake humility for long. Acting humble and being humble are very different things. Ultimately, what humility really is, is the quality or state of not thinking that you are better than others. Yes, supervisors and safety people may be in superior positions on the hierarchy scale, but that does not make them superior people. No amount of schooling, titles, certifications or money makes one person more superior. In fact, employees instantly know when someone supposes them self to be superior. It’s obvious in the way they communicate and the way that they talk down to employees. Humility is the personality trait that communicates to others that one person is no more important than another. There may be more responsibility with one job over another, but that does not make one person more important than another. Humility builds teamwork.

Generosity. This is what drives giving, understanding and selflessness. The question could be asked: if you could give of yourself to make another person’s circumstances better, why wouldn’t you? Generous people don’t even stop to think about reasons that they wouldn’t. Generous people give. That’s what they do. They give credit, give applause, give responsibility and they give examples of how to do it. Generous people do what they can to make someone else’s day better. Generous people do it without being asked. Generosity is not about money. Generosity is about time, energy, effort and helping others to succeed. Generous people know the words of Bob Dylan who once said, “just when you think you have nothing left to give, you find out you were wrong.”

If you want to become an effective and respected safety leader, work on each of the four personality traits. You will always be able to find work. You will always find yourself surrounded by others who are of like-mind. Besides, who wouldn’t want to work in a job whose supervisor or safety person owned those character and personality traits?

I know they work, I practice them every day!!

Source: Kevin Burns @KevBurnsBGI on Twitter & KevBurns.com

“Oakland Warehouse Dance Party Fire a Rare Disaster, But Troubling Trend Continues”

screenshot-www-ktvu-com-2016-12-03-14-04-22

In this age of modern building construction and fire codes, large loss-of-life fires in assembly occupancies just aren’t supposed to happen. But, for some reason, they continue to. I noticed a trend following The Station fire; I thought to myself, “Seems like it’s been about ten years since we’ve seen a fire like this.” I was close; it was 13 years.

The trend started with the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, KY, which killed 165 people in 1977. Thirteen years later, in 1990, 87 people died in a fire at the Bronx, NY Happy Land social club. Another thirteen years later, in 2003, The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, RI, killed 100.

And here we are, thirteen years later, counting the dead in an electronic dance music party fire at a warehouse turned artist collective/residence/performance space in Oakland, CA known as “Ghost Ship;” the death toll currently stands at 36 and is expected to rise.

NFPA president Jim Pauley spoke to the New York Times about the role fire codes have played in making fires, such as the one that occurred Friday night, rare occurrences. There is no question that codes have come a long way over the last 40 or so years, and if they’re followed, the probability that a fire will have such devastating consequences is low. Today’s codes, like NFPA 101, require automatic sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, and multiple, protected means of egress from large assembly spaces. (News outlets report the Oakland warehouse was not sprinklered, and means of egress from the second-floor assembly space was limited to a single stair; it is still very early in the investigation.)

So the question we, as fire protection and life safety professionals, must ask is, “Are we doing enough to prevent these tragedies?” Do the codes, as they stand today, provide a “reasonable” level of protection? If we do nothing, is it reasonable to expect that in thirteen years we will see another tragedy like the one this past weekend? Maybe it will be eight years, maybe eleven, but I think the answer is, “most likely.” The alternative is to do “something.” I don’t know what that “something” is. Do we pile more requirements onto the codes, effectively penalizing those who diligently comply with the requirements already on the books? And how effective would new requirements be? If building owners aren’t complying with today’s requirements, should we expect them to comply with new ones? What about enforcement? I know very well the budget constraints faced by municipal fire departments. State and local fire prevention agencies do tremendous work with their limited resources. It’s probably not reasonable to expect code enforcers to catch every illegal large assembly gathering.

The answer eludes me. And it’s troubling. I recently became the staff liaison for NFPA’s Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies, so this hits close to home. It’s my hope to get the conversation going so we can put an end to this trend. Or we can carry on, status-quo. If we do, history suggests we’ll see another large loss-of-life assembly occupancy fire. Probably in about 13 years, around 2029. I hope I’m wrong.

Source: by Gregory Harrington NFPA xChange

“OSHA’s Wall Of Shame – With Limited Staff, Agency Targets “Severe Violators”

osha-jacket-850x476

Source: FairWarning.org – By Paul Feldman and Stuart Silverstein

Soon after beginning their cleanup of a fume-filled tanker car at an Omaha, Nebraska rail maintenance yard, Adrian LaPour and Dallas Foulk were dead.

An explosion that April 2015 afternoon trapped LaPour in a flash fire inside the car and hurled Foulk out the top to his death.

Six months later their employer, Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services, was hammered by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration with seven citations for “egregious, willful” workplace violations, along with 26 other charges. The agency proposed fines of nearly $1 million. To top it off, OSHA announced that it was tossing the company into its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, or SVEP.

Six years into the severe violator program – arguably the broadest workplace safety initiative launched during the Obama administration – more than 500 businesses are on its list of bad actors. They include corporate giants such as DuPont and International Paper, each with tens of thousands of employees, as well as more than 300 construction firms, many with fewer than a dozen workers.

Just last week an auto parts maker in Alabama, Ajiin USA, was labeled a severe violator and hit with proposed fines of $2.5 million related to the June death of a 20-year old worker. Regina Allen Elsea, who was two weeks away from getting married, was crushed when a robotic machine she was doing maintenance on abruptly restarted. Ajiin, which supplies automakers Kia and Hyundai, said in a statement it will continue to cooperate with OSHA and that “safety has always been our guiding principle.”

Along with subjecting employers to a form of public shaming, the severe violator program helps OSHA work out settlements intended to force companies to clean up their job safety practices. The program, which replaced a George W. Bush administration initiative that an inspector general’s audit derided as ineffectual, also can result in extra inspections, sometimes at multiple sites, and force companies to hire new safety personnel. The effort, though, faces an uncertain future under the Trump administration.

The severe violator list represents an attempt to deal with an overwhelming regulatory challenge. With OSHA and its state counterparts relying on fewer than 1,850 inspectors to monitor about 8 million workplaces, it would take federal officials 145 years to inspect each job site once, union researchers estimate. The aim of the list is to let OSHA’s limited staff zero in on some of the worst offenders.

David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor in charge of OSHA, said in an interview with FairWarning that “even if we doubled our inspectors, we would still be able to only get to a small portion of employers. And so we need tools like SVEP, which extend our capabilities and encourage more employers to do the right thing even without inspections.”

But the targeted nature of the program creates a Catch-22. The death of a worker is clearly the worst thing that can happen at a job site. Yet with about 4,800 workplace fatalities a year nationally, putting every company with a death on the severe violator list would overwhelm OSHA and defeat the goal of tougher enforcement for a subset of the worst offenders. For that reason, the death of a worker will put a company on the list only if the circumstances are particularly flagrant or reflect a pattern of reckless conduct. In 2015 only one out of every roughly 200 employers with an on-the-job fatality landed on the list.

At the same time, it’s not certain that the program has effectively deterred recalcitrant employers, as OSHA lacks any comprehensive assessment of its performance. For evidence of the impact, OSHA officials point to settlements they have reached with companies on the list. “There hasn’t been a really good objective evaluation,” said MIT Professor Thomas A. Kochan, co-director of MIT’s Institute for Work and Employment Research.

One critic, John Newquist, (a LinkedIn connection of mine) and former OSHA official in Chicago, said his sense is that among employers, “There’s no fear of OSHA at all.”

Michaels, who will leave the agency by the January 20, 2017, presidential inauguration, expressed hope that the Trump administration won’t dismantle the severe violator effort or other enforcement initiatives. He said tough enforcement protects responsible employers because it “levels the playing field” between them and competitors who skimp on safety. Still, the anti-regulation views of Trump cabinet picks including Andrew Puzder, the president-elect’s choice for labor secretary, are raising expectations of cutbacks in workplace enforcement.

Nebraska Railcar –- currently the target, several sources say, of a Justice Department criminal investigation of last year’s explosion –- highlights how long it can take a wayward company to be put into the severe violator program. Jacob Mack, who worked for the company in 2013, says he told OSHA about brutal conditions long before the deadly blast. “Not a day goes by I don’t remember the hell there,” Mack said.

The company wasn’t listed until after the explosion even though it, as well as other businesses controlled by Nebraska Railcar’s majority owner, Steven Braithwaite, had repeatedly been cited by OSHA dating back to 2005. That includes a 2013 citation involving a fire risk from oil storage tanks. Nebraska Railcar stayed off the list, though, partly because its prior violations didn’t involve hazards the agency deemed high-priority, such as falls, amputations, cave-ins and exposure to toxic chemicals.

(Nebraska Railcar is contesting its current OSHA citations, as are other companies cited in this story that haven’t reached a settlement with the agency. Nebraska Railcar and most of the other companies have not responded to requests for comment.)

Case Farms, a leading poultry processor with plants in Ohio and North Carolina, finally landed on the list in 2015 after being cited for more than 350 violations over a 25-year period, according to OSHA. The case, which processes nearly 3 million chickens a week for fast food chains and supermarkets, last year was fined $861,500 for 55 violations, including amputation and fall hazards, at its Winesburg, Ohio, plant.

Sometimes disaster has struck even after companies were put in the program. One such case, in October, spurred a public outcry in Boston. Two laborers working for Atlantic Drain Service died after being trapped in a trench that was inundated by water, dirt, and debris after a pipe burst. Atlantic Drain had been on the severe violator list since 2012.

The October deaths “were entirely preventable,” The Boston Globe wrote in an editorial, “had city and state officials taken minimal steps to investigate the construction company before issuing permits.”

Whatever the shortcomings of the severe violator program, labor advocates say, the wide range of companies it snares -– and the number and gravity of their violations -– underscore its importance and the need to protect workers from callous bosses. OSHA’s other options are limited. The agency lacks the authority to shut down dangerous workplaces and its fines generally remain modest despite an increase that took effect in August.

“OSHA is one-eighth the size of the EPA, it has the lowest penalties of almost any government agency – but even though it is small, it is critical that enforcement is maintained,” said Deborah Berkowitz, the OSHA chief of staff from 2009 to 2013. The severe violator list, she conceded, is “not an end-all tool,” but an important tool.

An example OSHA officials point to is Ashley Furniture, the nation’s largest retailer of home furnishings. It was listed last year after being cited for 38 violations, 12 of them willful, and assessed $1.76 million in fines. Inspections showed more than 1,000 work-related injuries in less than four years at its plant in Arcadia, Wisconsin.

Over 100 of the injuries took place on similar woodworking machines, including a July 2014 incident in which a worker lost three fingers. In June, the privately held firm settled the case, agreeing to pay penalties of $1.75 million and to adopt safety measures in Arcadia and at three other plants in Wisconsin and Mississippi.

Some corporate defense lawyers say being labeled a “severe violator” is such a black eye that it strongly motivates companies to avoid trouble with OSHA. However, they criticize the program for lacking due process, because companies are labeled severe violators even as they appeal citations.

“You are dumped into SVEP essentially the day that the citations are issued and a citation is nothing more than an allegation,” said Eric J. Conn, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who specializes in OSHA defense cases. “Having the federal agency that is responsible for safety and health branding that employer as a bad actor … absolutely has significant consequences to the employer’s business.”

In the meantime, corporate lawyers say, competitors or critics can take advantage of the situation. If residents near a listed site “don’t like your company, to begin with, this is more ammunition they can use to go to a zoning board to block permits for expansion,” said Adele Abrams, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney.

On-the-job deaths can keep companies in the program for years. DuPont was listed after four workers at its La Porte, Texas, chemical plant died of asphyxiation in 2014. The disaster occurred after a supply line released more than 20,000 pounds of deadly methyl mercaptan gas. The company, which manufactures pesticides at the Texas plant, was assessed $273,000 for eight OSHA violations. DuPont said it couldn’t comment because it is appealing its case.

AMF Bowling Centers, Inc. has been on the list since 2011, when a worker at its lanes in Addison, Texas, was fatally pulled into an automatic pin-setting machine while trying to clear a jam. OSHA had previously cited AMF in 2007 and 2008 for failing to provide proper machine guarding on pinsetters. The case was settled, with AMF agreeing to pay more than $90,000 in penalties.

Oil services giant Nabors Completion and Production Services Co. was listed following the death of welder Dustin Payne, a 28-year-old former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was killed in a 2014 explosion when vapors ignited inside a tank he was welding in North Dakota.

Houston-based Nabors, which boasts of operating the world’s largest land-based drilling rig fleet, was assessed $97,200 in fines and charged with a willful violation for not having thoroughly cleaned the tank of oil residue before sending Payne in.

“Dustin Payne and his fiancée should be discussing marriage and their future together. Instead, she is left stricken and trying to move forward without him,” Eric Brooks, OSHA’s area director in Bismarck, N.D., said in a news release.

International Paper Co. was added to the list last year after a 57-year-old mechanic was killed in a fire while replacing filter bags in machinery at its Ticonderoga, N.Y., plant. The bags contained combustible dust that ignited.

In assessing $211,000 in fines, OSHA said the company had failed to supply fire-resistant clothing or adequate training. The firm had previously been cited for failing to conduct annual inspections of ignitable equipment at company sites in Chicago and Newark, Ohio.

Although big companies draw the most widespread attention, the employers most commonly labeled severe violators are small construction firms with high emphasis hazards related to falls or excavation cave-ins. Yet small construction firms often elude the follow-up inspections that are supposed to be a key feature of the program.

A FairWarning analysis of the current list of 523 severe violators found that 167 had not been re-inspected, and almost all were construction firms. In many cases, the firms had shut down their worksites or went out of business before inspectors could return.

Eric Frumin, safety and health director of the union coalition Change to Win, said given the way the industry operates, OSHA can be “powerless to find and vigorously confront the worst actors.”

A trench collapse last year in New York that put a construction firm on the list also led to criminal charges. The cave-in collapse in lower Manhattan buried Carlos Moncayo, 22, under tons of dirt. His employer, Sky Materials Corp. of Maspeth, was fined $140,000 and listed for willfully failing to provide cave-in protection

Last month, Sky’s site foreman was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Moncayo, one of at least 18 New York City construction workers who died on the job in 2015. The project’s general contractor, Harco Construction LLC, was convicted of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in June.

Deadly incidents also have brought rail tank car cleaning companies into the program. At Nebraska Railcar, the disaster came soon after the workers returned from a lunch break and started digging out thick residue from an oil tanker. The lone survivor among the three employees working on the tanker, Joe Coschka, 36, said he was just outside the car, lowering buckets of the blacktop like material into a 55-gallon drum.

Coschka said the odor from inside the tanker was powerful, and that an air monitor was beeping. Even so, he said he assumed a supervisor who should have known better than him whether the air was a hazard, should have informed workers to evacuate the tank car immediately.

Soon Coschka heard a loud hiss, and then sparks started shooting out of the tanker. The next thing he remembers is dangling from the side of the car, still attached to his safety harness, with a fire raging inside. “And I knew Adrian was in there, and Dallas was looking pretty bad on the ground. I just knew I had to get out of there,” said Coschka. He managed to scramble to safety despite suffering back and shoulder injuries.

Coschka remains haunted by the disaster. Although he sometimes blames himself for not questioning the foreman who sent the workers into the tanker car, most of his anger is aimed at Braithwaite, the main owner of the business. He said he wishes the tougher OSHA actions had come sooner. Referring to the years of citations against Braithwaite’s companies, Coshka added: “It’s just sad because this guy dropped the ball so many times and he just keeps getting away with it.” Coschka had started at Nebraska Railcar only a month earlier.

Source: FairWarning.org – By Paul Feldman and Stuart Silverstein

“AA Batteries Cause House Fire In Hastings, Nebraska” & How To Store Batteries Safely In The Home” #FireSafety

AA Batteries Rolling Around In Camera Case Cause House Fire In Hastings, Nebraska

“How To Store Batteries Safely In The Home”

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) — Some of us may have that kitchen junk drawer that has loose batteries, tools, and other items in it, but these drawers might be a fire waiting to happen. If batteries touch in the wrong way, they might catch fire and cause a lot of damage.

“Don’t let them just roll in there,” Big G Ace Hardware Store Manager Linda Dill said. “Don’t let them roll against the screwdriver, because it can just transfer onto another battery or something down the line. The best thing to do is to store them upright and somehow covered.”

Fire officials said not only 9-volt batteries but other typs as well, contribute to rising cause of home fires in the last 4-5 years due to inappropriate storage of all household batteries in the home.

“You’d see them in many homes, but the positive and negative end of that battery are both very close,” Chief Kent Gilbert with the Hastings Fire Department said. “It’s easy for those to be shorted accidentally. It’s important to remember that it will create enough heat to cause a fire.”

Putting masking tape on batteries is one way to prevent them from touching. Plastic bags are another way.

“Putting them in plastic bags with all the negatives up, all the positives up, or however you want to do that,” Dill said. “Make sure they’re tight, so they don’t roll around in that.”

Officials said when people are done using the batteries they should get rid of them immediately to help ensure safety.

It’s recommended that people keep the original packing of the batteries and leave them in there until they are ready to use them.

screenshot-www-graphiq-com-2016-12-28-17-56-24

See exact data here on fire loss in deaths, dollar loss, and injuries: http://bit.ly/2hunDks

%d bloggers like this: