|10 Tips to Implementing a Lockout/Tagout Program
Your LOTO program must address the hazards that workers face when they place any part of their body near a machine’s point of operation, power transmission apparatus, pinch points, or other moving parts during maintenance and servicing activities. If the machine is not properly shut down and secured, it could unexpectedly start up, release stored energy, move, or cycle, causing crushing injuries, amputations, or even fatal injuries. A well-designed LOTO program can prevent these injuries.
This paper gives you 10 tips for ensuring that your LOTO program is well-designed and effective, and that it avoids some of the more common failure points found in LOTO programs.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Northern Steel Castings for two safety and four health violations at its Wisconsin Rapids carbon steel foundry, including for overexposing workers to crystalline silica, a known respiratory hazard, according to a Nov. 28 press release.
Proposed fines total $95,480.
OSHA initiated the inspection after receiving a complaint alleging overexposure to crystalline silica, a basic component of soil, sand, granite and other minerals. When workers chip, cut, drill or grind objects that contain silica, small particles can be created and breathing in crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, an incurable condition that reduces the ability of lungs to take in oxygen.
Northern Steel Castings also was cited for two repeat health violations for allowing workers to be overexposed to iron oxide and copper fumes in the foundry, and for exposing employees to fire hazards when welding inside plywood booths.
A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The company was cited for these violations in 2006.
Additionally, three serious health violations were cited for failing to keep eating surfaces free from contamination by hexavalent chromium; failing to provide ventilation when welding, and for failing to provide adequate emergency exits.
A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Northern Steel Castings had been inspected by OSHA 24 times prior to this inspection and was cited for overexposure to silica six other times. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Imperial Sugar has agreed to pay more than $6 million in fines for safety violations at two of its U.S. plants, including the Georgia refinery where a dust explosion killed 14 workers in 2008, federal regulators said Wednesday.
The settlement with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration comes nearly two years after regulators first sought to penalize the Texas-based company for allowing combustible sugar dust to accumulate in dangerous amounts inside its plants despite prior warnings.
“Clearly, health and safety must become this company’s top priorities,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a statement. “This agreement requires Imperial Sugar to make extensive changes to its safety practices, and it underscores the importance of proactively addressing workplace safety and health hazards.”
OSHA had originally sought to fine the Fort Bend County-based company $8.7 million for 221 safety violations at the nation’s second-largest sugar refinery near Savannah and its plant in Gramercy, La. The company contested the fines to an administrative law judge, leading to lengthy settlement talks that resulted in an agreement to pay 70 percent of the originally proposed amount.
Imperial Sugar noted that it admitted no wrongdoing by settling the case.
“Imperial agreed to the terms with OSHA in order to settle these matters expeditiously and amicably,” CEO John Sheptor said in a statement, “and to allow us to better concentrate our resources toward not only enhancing the safety of our own facilities, but also to assist the sugar industry as a whole in addressing workplace hazards.”
Investigators determined that sugar dust trapped inside the 92-year-old Georgia refinery ignited like gunpowder on Feb. 7, 2008, setting off a chain of explosions that killed 14 workers and injured 36.
Investigations by two federal agencies determined that Imperial Sugar had been warned about dangerous dust inside the Georgia plant as recently as 2002, and that prior warnings had been issued since as early as the 1960s.
Imperial Sugar says it added numerous safety features when it rebuilt the Georgia plant last year. The settlement with OSHA also requires the company to maintain an improved housekeeping program, employ a full-time safety manager for the Georgia plant and undergo audits by outside safety experts for the next three years.
Imperial Sugar agreed to pay $4.05 million in fines for 124 safety violations, including 69 willful violations, at its Georgia refinery.
The company will pay an additional $2 million in fines for 97 violations OSHA found at its Louisiana plant during inspections after the Georgia explosion.
Kijuanus Wright, a former employee who suffered severe burns in the 2008 explosion, left a meeting OSHA held Wednesday with victims and their families saying he’s glad Imperial Sugar is being forced to adopt new safety standards. But he said the fines didn’t seem like enough punishment and he’d like to see the government bring criminal charges.
“Somebody should be held accountable for it because there were so many lives lost,” said Wright, who still wears protective wraps over the skin grafted to his arms. “If you’re supplying the whole Southeast with sugar, $6 million isn’t a lot.”
The U.S. attorney’s office in Savannah did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on whether it’s still weighing a possible criminal case against Imperial Sugar executives. OSHA officials declined to discuss the issue.
Cindy Coe, OSHA’s southeast regional administrator, said the agency inspected Imperial Sugar’s rebuilt Georgia plant in January and plans to keep a close watch on the company.
“All we can do is try to make sure this never happens again,” Coe said.
Video:Man survives a near-drowning in sunflower seeds in silo.
Over the past three decades, more than 680 Kansans have been killed on the job. Nearly one in 10 died while working at a grain elevator. The 60 grain elevator deaths include three painters who fell 125 feet from the top of an elevator in Jetmore in 1982.
They include four members of a cleaning crew that was in the DeBruce Grain elevator south of Wichita when it exploded in 1998.
Forty-eight of the workers who died in elevators were doing jobs classified by OSHA as “grain and field bean” work. According to OSHA, it’s the most dangerous job you can have if you work in Kansas.
The DeBruce explosion, which killed seven and injured 10, made national headlines and resulted in a substantial OSHA fine.
But all of the other grain and field bean workers who have died since 1980 were killed in single-fatality accidents. Nearly half died when they were engulfed by grain.
“It’s just one of the most dangerous places in the world to work,” said Ron Hayes, who became a workplace safety advocate after his 19-year-old son, Patrick, was buried by 60 tons of corn while working in a Florida grain bin in 1993.
“You’ve got all these electrical contacts,” Hayes said. “You’ve got all these gears and chains and belts.
“And then there’s the dust. When you go into these bins and grain elevators, sometimes you can’t even see. It’s a white-out almost.”
Hayes said he began researching workplace safety after becoming frustrated with his inability to get information about his son’s death. He said he now thinks most people hired by grain elevators don’t realize the dangers of the job they are taking.
“Call 100 people and ask them, ‘Do you think corn or soybeans would be dangerous to work with?’ ” he said. “They’re going to say no. But it’s very, very hazardous.”
The second-most-dangerous job in Kansas is “sewer, pipeline, and power line construction” worker, OSHA records show. Workers in that category accounted for 32 workplace deaths from 1980 through 2009.
The third- and fourth-most-dangerous jobs are “highway and street construction,” with 28 deaths, and “roofing, siding, and sheet metal” work, with 25.
A review of Kansas’ grain elevator deaths shows that the seven men who died at DeBruce were the only workers killed by an explosion.
OSHA records show that 21 of the workers were buried under grain, five others were crushed by equipment, five died in falls and three were electrocuted.
Hayes said when the coroner couldn’t answer detailed questions about his son’s death, he began to research what happens when a person is covered by grain.
Death comes from asphyxia, he said, when the pressure of the grain prevents the victim’s diaphragm from contracting. Most workers, he said, die with their hands reaching upward.
“It took them five hours to dig him out,” he said of the recovery of his son’s body. “His ears were packed with corn dust. His nose, his eyes, were packed with corn dust. It was just packed solid. They had to dig it out.”
A serious workplace accident — one involving a death or the hospitalization of three or more workers — automatically triggers an investigation by OSHA.
In all but nine of the investigations that followed grain elevator deaths, the OSHA inspection turned up one or more violations of workplace safety standards. When violations were found, the fines in the single-fatality deaths ranged from $83 to $77,800.
The $650,000 fine that was assessed after the DeBruce blast was the second-largest in state history.
The largest was a $1.5 million fine assessed to National Beef Packing Co. of Liberal after the deaths of three workers who were overcome by toxic fumes in a blood-collection tank.
OSHA can levy fines of up to $7,000 for each violation. If the violation is willful — if management was aware of the problem and did not correct it — the company can be fined up to $70,000 per violation.
OSHA blamed the DeBruce explosion on a buildup of dust throughout the elevator and a general lack of maintenance. Investigators said they found piles of dust up to 7 inches deep.
In Kansas, OSHA conducts an average of 800 inspections a year.
About 3 percent are triggered by serious accidents, while 4 percent are “referrals” that are launched after a credible source alerts OSHA to a potential problem.
OSHA records show that 5 percent of its inspections are follow-ups, and 18 percent are triggered by complaints from current or former workers.
The bulk of inspections are “programmed,” which means they are designed to target specific hazards.
Since 1980, OSHA has conducted 340 grain elevator inspections in Kansas. Nearly 40 percent occurred during the three years following the DeBruce explosion.
The elevator inspections included 46 that were prompted by serious accidents, 35 that arose from worker complaints, and 31 that were follow-ups from previous inspections. Most were programmed inspections.
Terry Kohler, Garden Plain Co-op general manger, said OSHA plays a key role in making sure that workplaces are safe.
“Sometimes we squirm and worry when we hear that word ‘OSHA,’ but they’re also there to help us,” he said.
Joe Schauf, general manager of Nickerson Co-op, agreed.
“They have a job to do, too,” he said. “It’s good they come around to check on some of these things. For the most part, co-ops all work well with them. OSHA is going to tell you when you screw up.”
Hayes, whose son died, said he has developed a love-hate relationship with OSHA over the years. He said he appreciates the fact that OSHA pressures companies to keep workplaces safe. But he said most OSHA fines are small, and he wishes the agency would focus more on being proactive rather than reactive.
Hayes said that after his son’s death, he found OSHA to be of little help. Today, he said, OSHA is more user-friendly to relatives of accident victims. For example, he said, the agency no longer charges grieving survivors for copies of reports about the deaths of their loved ones.
Hayes said he thinks American companies generally are getting better at investing in safety training and equipment.
“You’ve got a lot of good companies out there that want to do the right thing,” he said. “Then you’ve got some companies that just don’t give a rat’s patoot.”
Nationwide, he said, “We’ll have 16 people die today on the job. There’ll be 16 families that have to go to the morgue and identify a husband or son or brother or child.
“Every day that happens. And that doesn’t even count the families of the ones that have been hurt.”
Contributing: Rick Plumlee of The Eagle Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or email@example.com.
OSHA has cited ERA Valdivia Contractors Inc., an industrial painting and sandblasting company in Chicago, with $130,300 in proposed penalties for exposing workers to dangerous lead materials.
Based on a November 2009 inspection, OSHA has cited the company with two willful violations and a proposed $112,000 penalty for failing to provide adequate personal protective equipment to employees working in and around lead while performing abrasive blasting and painting. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
The employer also has been cited with eight serious citations and a proposed $18,300 penalty. Some of these citations address the company’s alleged failure to ensure workers use respirators in accordance with the conditions of certification; to prohibit the use of respirators by employees with facial hair; and to provide a clean changing area for employees. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.
“Employers must ensure any employee working in and around lead, especially when he or she is abrasive blasting, should be protected from overexposure to this dangerous material,” said OSHA Area Director Diane Turek in Des Plaines, Ill. “Those who ignore these health regulations are inviting tragedy into the lives of their workers.”
ERA Valdivia has been inspected by OSHA 25 times since 1991 and has been issued numerous willful, serious, and repeat violations, including many lead violations. The company employs approximately 75 workers.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA has cited Fleetpride Inc. in Willowbrook, Ill., with $61,500 in proposed penalties for alleged serious and repeat violations of federal workplace safety standards.
As a result of a February inspection, the agency cited the nationwide truck parts distributor with three alleged serious violations for damaged, inoperable emergency lighting; exit signs not illuminated; and a damaged fall protection lanyard not taken out of service. Additionally, the company received four repeat violations alleging improper personal protective equipment, no hazard assessment certification, no personal protective equipment training certification, and no cover on an electrical box.
“These types of violations show the disregard the company has for the safety and welfare of its employees,” said OSHA Area Director Kathy Webb in North Aurora, Ill. “Those who ignore safe practices and OSHA regulations are inviting tragedy into the lives of their workers.”
The company, which is headquartered in The Woodlands, Texas, has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
California occupational-safety officials have issued one of their agency’s largest group of fines ever — $230,535 — to Bimbo Bakeries for failing to fix safety violations that led to amputation of workers’ limbs.
Officials said that 20 alleged violations were documented at three factories belonging to the company, which produces brands that include Oroweat and Entenmann’s goods.
The factories are in South San Francisco, Escondido and Montebello.
On Feb. 13, a separate investigation was opened at an Elk Grove Bimbo factory where a worker lost the tip of a finger and some bone, according to Dean Fryer, spokesman for the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“Our primary concern is for the safety of employees at these job sites and the steps that Bimbo needs to take to ensure a safe work environment,” Cal-OSHA chief Len Welsh said in a statement Thursday. “We believe there are systemic problems which have resulted in numerous employees suffering amputations due to unguarded equipment.”
Fryer said this week’s citations are the largest issued against a one company for alleged “willful” continuing violations that could to lead to physical harm or death. Fryer said Cal-OSHA has documented six amputations of workers’ limbs or part of a limb at Bimbo plants.
One of the factories fined this week is in South San Francisco, where Bimbo employee Rosa Frias lost an arm in an industrial accident in 2003.
Bimbo was issued $21,750 in fines after an inspection found the company at fault. But after a nearly four-year appeals process, Cal-OSHA Appeals Board Judge Barbara Steinhardt-Carter reduced the fine to zero because she said there was no evidence that a Cal-OSHA inspector had presented credentials to enter the Bimbo bakery after Frias’ arm was severed. The inspector was retired by the time the appeals hearing was held and did not testify.
Cal-OSHA officials argued that the inspector had identified himself and that factory employees had allowed him into the plant. Inspectors have asked for the case to be reconsidered. “The documentation should have been ample enough” to uphold the fines, Fryer said.
The Cal-OSHA appeals process came under fire recently during legislative hearings at the state Capitol. Last summer, a third of Cal-OSHA’s inspectors signed a letter saying that appeals board policies had “sabotaged” their job of protecting California workers.
Numerous fines related to worker injury and death, including farmworkers’ deaths from heat exposure, had been dramatically reduced.
The South San Francisco factory was issued a citation of $76,750 for alleged improper use of electrical cords and failure to prevent accidental movement of equipment during cleaning and maintenance. Frias’ arm was severed by equipment during maintenance.
The Escondido factory was issued $123,535 in citations for having no injury prevention plan, no emergency eye wash or shower in a battery changing area and unguarded pulleys, sprockets and shafts on equipment. The Montebello factory was issued $30,250 in citations for having no emergency eye wash and unguarded equipment.
OSHA has notified officials at the Evansville Regional Airport (Evansville, Ill.) that a recent inspection has found four serious and four repeat safety and health violations in its air traffic control tower.
The agency began its safety and health inspection in August 2009 as a planned inspection under its Airport Air Traffic Control Tower Monitoring Program. Serious violations found include failing to post a diagram of emergency egress routes, conduct annual fire drills, and properly identify doors as “Not an Exit,” as well as an improperly grounded electrical outlet. Repeat violations include failing to test the stair pressurization system, unobstructed exit routes, and inadequate or missing emergency action plans and fire prevention plans.
“Workers in air traffic control towers should be assured they can escape quickly and efficiently if disaster strikes,” said OSHA Area Director Ken Gilbert in Indianapolis, Ind. “All of us want to see working men and women go home safe at the end of every work shift.”
Gilbert noted that if this employer were in the private sector, based on the violations found, total penalties assessed would amount to $125,000. Under the law, federal agencies are cited without penalties.
Public air traffic control towers are operated under the control of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration. Since October 2007, OSHA has inspected 57 FAA tower sites nationwide, with 45 of those inspections resulting in notices issued. Those notices have included 128 violations, more than three-fourths of which were categorized as “serious.”
Federal regulators have cited Gulf Chemical & Metallurgical Corp. in Freeport, alleging it exposed workers to hazardous airborne contaminants.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed penalties of $50,400 after an October inspection found 16 alleged serious violations of workplace safety and health standards.
OSHA alleged this week that Gulf Chemical & Metallurgical failed to adequately protect workers from airborne exposure and electrical hazards, and failed to train employees on chemical hazards, forklift attachments and the use of respirators.
“This employer exposed its workers to unhealthful working conditions,” said Dean McDaniel, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas.
Nancy Wollam, vice president of public relations and government affairs for Gulf Chemical & Metallurgical, said the company plans to contest each of the allegations and has requested an informal conference with OSHA.
“Employee health and safety is our top priority and we work diligently every day to ensure that our work environment is as safe as possible,” Wollam said.
A federal agency has cited the Connecticut Humane Society for workplace safety violations and fined the organization $6,800.
Society representatives met Friday with officials from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but did not reach a settlement, said Ted Fitzgerald, an OSHA spokesman based in Boston.
The society has until Friday to agree to correct the problems and pay a fine, or seek an administrative hearing, he said.
OSHA cited the society for 10 violations. Inspectors said facilities were not available for quick drenching or flushing if workers were exposed to chemicals and protective equipment was not used by employees while cleaning kennels with strong chemicals.
The 129-year-old organization has come under fire recently by the Coalition for Change, a group of former and current employees and animal rights activists that wants the society’s longtime president, Richard Johnston, ousted.
Maureen Lord, a member of the group, said Johnston is dismissive of complaints, has unchecked power because he controls the board of directors and has overseen a decrease in the quality of animal care.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is investigating allegations that society money has been misused for “personal expenses and other improper purposes.”
Johnston has refused to comment publicly on the allegations, but a board of directors spokesman has defended his integrity.
OSHA inspected the society’s headquarters at 701 Russell Road in Newington on Jan. 19. Lord said the agency had visited the headquarters previously, but managers had covered up violations and employees were intimidated about talking to inspectors, who were accompanied by managers. Lord said she was fired by the society in December because she helped organize a successful employee vote to unionize.
During the Jan. 19 OSHA visit, employees were willing to discuss problems because inspectors interviewed them in private, Lord said.