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“Excellent Toolbox Talk – Safety Meeting! Kudos to Truebeck Construction for doing it right!” #Safety #EverbodyGoesHome @TruebeckConst

Excellent Toolbox Talk – Safety Meeting! Kudos to Truebeck Construction for doing it right! #Safety #EverbodyGoesHome

Truebeck Construction was founded with a game-changing spirit and an ambitious vision: disrupt the traditional and ordinary, and rigorously raise the bar to do our best work. Period. We’re driven by the belief that we can improve construction practices and elevate standards while creating remarkable places in our community.

Lots of things are built. Few things are crafted smart and well. We have an entrepreneurial nature – thinking big, but not acting big – and perform as true builders with boots on the ground. We absolutely love construction, and you’ll see that in everything we do. It’s never business as usual on our job sites or in the office; in fact, it’s more like a championship game. We strive for greatness in the details, the dirty work, and in the victory of helping you achieve your vision.

We believe that what we do today contributes to a better-built environment tomorrow. This inspires us – making permanence of places for living, working, healing and learning. Our legacy is more than a name, it’s improving the community around us with a recognizable passion, determination, and excellence. Our hallmark and promise is this: we work relentlessly to give the best possible service, quality, and value while making it exciting and memorable.

For more information, see http://www.truebeck.com/

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Annual “Behavior Management Techniques for Leaders” Conference – September 11th and 12th, Chicago, IL

BMTEdit

Howard Lees – Director, Hollin Consulting

Head shot from Coastal - informal

Dr. Scott Geller – Internationally Known Behavioral Based Safety Expert

The annual Behavior Management Techniques for Leaders will be September 11th and 12th in Chicago this year. The BMT Federation has a history of delivering engaging conferences featuring leading safety experts speaking on cutting-edge, behavioral-based strategies, and is sure leave attendees not only feeling inspired, but empowered with new knowledge and ideas for change.

The theme for this year is “Creating the Conditions for Success” and the featured keynote is Dr. Scott Geller – internationally known expert in behavioral safety, and the father of behavior-based safety. Attendees will be receiving a free copy of Dr. Geller’s new book “Actively Caring for People” and will have the opportunity to have it signed during the conference.  The conference will include many other experts in behavioral safety and leadership, including internationally known author and director of Hollin Consulting Howard Lees; Organizational Design and Change Expert Travis McNeal of Walmart; and behavioral management techniques expert Dr. John Austin of Reaching Results.  As always, attendees can expect thought provoking talks, engaging discussions, and great behavioral leadership and safety strategies from speakers at the conference.

The Pre-Conference Workshop “Behavioral Safety for Leaders” on September 11th features an intimate setting for participants with more group activities and interaction with the speakers. Participants will get the opportunity to practice, discuss, and apply the skills and concepts presented during the workshop with guidance from experts in behavior management techniques.

Group rates for 5 or more are still available, and hotel rooms are running out quickly. Visit the conference website for more information about rates, registration, and lodging: www.reachingresults.com/2013conference , or e-mail Lisa Kazbour at lisa@reachingresults.com

Download Conference Information & Registration Flyer Here: BMT Leadership Conference Flyer Chicago 2013

CSB Draft Interim Report on 2012 Chevron Fire Notes Company Failed to Apply Inherently Safer Design That Could Have Prevented the Accident

CSB

Richmond, California, April 15, 2013—Missed opportunities to apply inherently safer design, failure to identify and evaluate damage mechanism hazards, and the lack of effective safeguards culminated in the vapor cloud release and massive fire that occurred at the Chevron refinery on August 6, 2012, a draft report by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has found. The investigation team concluded that enhanced regulatory oversight with greater worker involvement and public participation are needed to improve oil refinery safety.

The report, subject to a Board vote at a CSB public meeting in Richmond on Friday, April 19, notes that Chevron repeatedly over a ten-year period failed to effectively apply inherently safer design principles and upgrade piping in its crude oil processing unit that was extremely corroded and ultimately ruptured on August 6, 2012. The ensuing release of hydrocarbons endangered 19 workers who narrowly escaped from a vapor cloud before it ignited, causing a fire that sent a plume across the area. 15,000 people sought medical treatment in the weeks following the accident.

The public meeting to consider the draft report is scheduled for Friday, April 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium and Convention Center, 403 Civil Center Plaza, Richmond. The meeting will include a detailed presentation by CSB investigators, a computer-animated video recreation of the incident, a stakeholder panel discussion, and a public comment period.

The CSB investigation team proposed to the Board urgent recommendations, including that at all its refineries, Chevron perform damage mechanism hazard reviews and ensure safeguards are in place to control identified hazards. Reporting of process safety indicators to enable more effective oversight by federal, state, and local regulatory agencies is also urgently recommended.

The refinery is located in the city of Richmond; a Contra Costa County community located about ten miles northeast of San Francisco. A series of recommendations are proposed to the mayor and city council of Richmond, and the Contra Costa County supervisors, aimed at strengthening the local Industrial Safety Ordinance and driving the risk of major accidents as low as reasonably practicable.

The report recommends the governor and legislature of the State of California create amulti-agency program for all California oil refineries to improve the public accountability, transparency and performance of process safety programs. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was urged to assist the state to monitor the effective implementation of programs designed to improve oil refinery safety and disclosure requirements the CSB is recommending to the state and local agencies.

CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “Improved worker involvement, company transparency, and public participation are needed to prevent these major industrial accidents. Our findings and recommendations are directed immediately at the accident in the Bay Area, but we believe they apply to all refineries, chemical plants and general industry. There is a national need to base safety principles on inherently safer designs and applying effective safeguards to control damage mechanisms such as sulfidation corrosion. And we find that to prevent chemical accidents, regulatory agencies must maintain sufficient professional expertise to effectively oversee these highly technical industries.”

The CSB investigation team determined that although Chevron policy calls for the use of inherently safer technology in design and upgrades, the company has been implementing changes – such as the critical metallurgy of piping – without any documented, thorough analysis of the proposed inherently safer solutions. The investigators wrote, “Without such a review, the material selected cannot be analyzed to determine if it is the best inherently safer solution for the process in order to minimize risk.” The report continues, “Chevron has repeatedly failed to implement the proposed inherently safer recommendations.” Had this been done, the investigation team concluded, the accident could have been prevented.

The CSB investigation team determined that had Chevron followed its own internal recommendations, or been required by local, state or federal regulation to implement inherently safer systems during repairs, it would have years ago upgraded critical crude unit sidecut piping from carbon steel to metallurgy more resistant to sulfidation corrosion – metal deterioration caused by the presence of sulfur compounds at high temperatures in the crude unit. Such a material upgrade could have prevented the accident.

Even when rebuilding the crude oil unit after the August 2012 release and fire, the CSB report notes, Chevron did not install what the CSB considers inherently safer stainless steel piping in the destroyed distillation tower, choosing instead, with no documented inherently safer technology review, an alloy called 9-Chrome that is more corrosion-resistant than carbon steel but less resistant than stainless steel. The report notes this was despite the fact that the company did install stainless steel piping in the 4-sidecut section of the distillation tower in a nearly identical refinery unit in El Segundo, California in 2001, considering it to be the safest material.

CSB Chairperson Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “Although the sulfidation corrosion hazard is well known throughout the industry and at Chevron, the company unfortunately overlooked multiple warnings including other accidents and its own internal recommendations to replace the pipe with an inherently safer alloy that could endure the corrosive process conditions. Among other recommendations, we will be voting Friday to urge regulators to require the application of inherently safer design principles at multiple points during the process life cycle, which will drive major accident risk to as low as reasonably practicable.”

Industrial safety ordinances in both Richmond and Contra Costa County jurisdictions, the report found, have language addressing the desirability of using inherently safer processes, material, and other technology, but do not require it. Furthermore, the report states, the existing regulations do not require documentation supporting the adequacy of existing “inherently safer” claims, so Chevron did not have to document its evaluation and decision to not upgrade the 4-sidecut pipe section that ultimately failed.

At a higher regulatory level, the report notes that neither the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), nor federal OSHA, which delegates employee safety regulation to the state, requires inherently safer processes to be utilized in any standard or regulation. Nor does either agency require damage mechanism reviews – such as corrosion – as part of formal efforts to identify and control hazards. Such reviews have been recommended by overseas regulators in the United Kingdom, the report notes.

After reviewing local, state, and federal rules and regulations, and examining the capabilities of regulators, the CSB investigation team determined that Cal/OSHA is under-resourced to adequately oversee the refinery industry in California. The report notes that between 2006 and the date of the August 2012 Chevron accident, Cal/OSHA conducted three planned inspections of the Richmond refinery, totaling only 150 inspector hours of effort. The report contrasted those inspections with federal OSHA refinery National Emphasis Program inspections between 2007 and 2011 that lasted roughly 1,000 inspector hours. When federal OSHA established its Process Safety Management or PSM standard in 1992, even more intensive Program Quality Verification facility audits were planned, but these were rarely done due to inadequate resources. The investigation team will report further on this and other related regulatory issues in its final report scheduled for later in 2013.

The CSB report emphasizes the importance of open communications between facilities and local communities concerning chemical safety and chemical risks. The report discusses the requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986, and notes that “along with provisions of the EPA’s Risk Management Program, the regulatory purpose and substantive provisions emphasize the importance of transparency, sharing of process safety data, and public participation to prevent chemical accidents.”

The CSB interim draft report comprehensively details the corrosion process that led to the pipe failure, and the sequence of events that transpired during the emergency response following the discovery of a leak on August 6, 2012.

The investigation found Chevron should have shut down its crude oil unit as soon as a relatively small leak of “gas oil” was detected by workers, dripping from the 4-sidecut 8” pipe, rather than continuing to operate while troubleshooting the problem. Nineteen workers – including a Chevron firefighter — narrowly escaped death or serious injury as they were engulfed in the highly flammable vapor cloud. The continued burning of the hydrocarbon process fluid resulted in a large plume of unknown particulates and vapor traveling across the area. In the weeks following the incident, approximately 15,000 people from the surrounding area sought medical treatment for ailments including breathing problems, chest pain, shortness of breath, sore throat and headaches. Approximately 20 people were admitted to hospitals for treatment.

The CSB determined that Chevron’s procedure for dealing with such leaks was to shut down the unit and then troubleshoot. But this was not done. Instead, a group of operations managers, engineers and technicians – attempted to find the source of the leak with the intent of placing a clamp device over the pipe to stop it.

To find the leak, firefighters were instructed to pull off insulation which was tightly wound and banded around the pipe. A pike pole was used at first to stab at the insulation; this likely resulted in puncturing a hole in the pipe which was already so corroded, the CSB found, it was 40% thinner than the thickness of a dime. As they were then pulling off insulation with a hook, hydrocarbon vapor released from underneath the insulation and caught fire. Firefighters quickly put out the flames, and then turned high pressure water on the insulation in a further attempt to remove it. But as the insulation peeled away, hot hydrocarbon liquid began to spray out.

A decision was made to shut the unit down, but it was too late. Suddenly the pipe ripped open. A vapor cloud formed and rapidly expanded, as the large amount of hydrocarbons in the distillation tower started to vent through the ruptured pipe. The vapor cloud immediately spread over hundreds of feet, engulfing all 19 people who had gathered nearby. The firefighters and operators struggled to escape through the dense hydrocarbon cloud, unable to see. They had to feel their way out, some on their hands and knees. Two minutes after the vapor cloud formed, it ignited. A firefighter in a fire engine was able to escape through the wall of fire in full protective gear.

The CSB determined the carbon steel piping had been originally installed at Chevron in 1976. This type of piping is especially susceptible to corrosion from hydrocarbons containing sulfur. The CSB found this is especially true if the piping happens to low in the element silicon.

The CSB draft report notes that in the ten years prior to the incident, Chevron personnel with knowledge and understanding of sulfidation corrosion made at least six recommendations to increase inspection or upgrade the metallurgy in the 4-sidecut piping. These were in 2002, 2006, 2007, 2009 and twice in 2011, including during the maintenance turnaround which immediately preceded the 2012 release. However, the recommendations made by these personnel were not implemented by Chevron management, the CSB found.

For example, the CSB learned that sulfidation corrosion had caused a major failure at Chevron’s refinery in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2002. Chevron then performed an enhanced inspection of the 4-sidecut pipe at the Richmond refinery. It revealed accelerated thinning on the piping section that would ultimately fail in 2012. Replacement was recommended, but this did not occur, and the section of piping was never inspected again.

During the maintenance turnaround of the crude unit in 2011, Chevron inspectors examined some – but not all – locations along the 4-sidecut and found significant thinning. Some sections were replaced. However, the critical section of 4-sidecut piping was not. The report notes the turnaround management team decided the inspection data available for the piping – which was from piping elbows – did not support a material upgrade. The CSB found, however, that piping elbows are less susceptible to sulfidation corrosion, and that data should have gathered on potential corrosion from the straight sections of the 4-sidecut.

Chairperson Moure-Eraso said, “These missed opportunities to upgrade the piping that ultimately failed shows the need for significant improvements in controlling hazards such as corrosion. The recommendations we are proposing in this report will, I feel, greatly add to the safe operation of all U.S. refineries in this key industrial sector.”

This interim report focuses on mechanical integrity issues and effective accident prevention safeguards, but this accident also implicates organizational and regulatory issues that are still under investigation. The CSB is working on a final report, anticipated later this year, that will present key additional findings and recommendations as well as addressing emergency planning and reporting, emergency response, and safety culture.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.

For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen, cell 202-446-8094 or Sandy Gilmour, Public Affairs, cell 202-251-5496.

Interim Investigation Report: http://www.csb.gov/assets/1/16/Draft_Report_for_Public_Comment.pdf

CSB to Pursue Full Investigation of August 6, 2012 Fire at Chevron Refinery in Richmond, California

 

 

Washington, DC, August 11, 2012 – The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) will pursue a full investigation to determine the causes of Monday’s fire at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, northeast of San Francisco, the agency announced today.

A CSB team numbering seven investigators arrived in at the refinery on Wednesday and has since been conducting witness interviews and reviewing documents at the site. CSB structural and industrial safety experts will arrive at the site on Monday to prepare for safe entry by investigators into the immediate area of the fire.

Monday’s fire occurred when a combustible hydrocarbon liquid known as “gas-oil” leaked from an eight-inch pipe connected to a crude oil distillation tower in the refinery’s crude unit. Workers initially noted the leak and were in the process of attempting repairs on piping connected to the still-operating crude oil distillation tower when the leak suddenly intensified. Due to the high temperature of the material in the tower, in excess of 600 degrees Fahrenheit, the gas-oil immediately formed a large flammable vapor cloud.

“Witness testimony collected by CSB investigators indicates that a large number of workers were engulfed in the vapor cloud,” said CSB Team Lead Dan Tillema, P.E. “These workers might have been killed or severely injured, had they not escaped the cloud as the release rate escalated and the cloud ignited, shortly thereafter.”

CSB Chairperson Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso said: “Monday’s fire was a near-disaster for refinery personnel. The circumstances warrant a full and independent federal investigation to determine the root causes. Although fortunately no workers were killed, the overall impact of the incident ranks it as among the most serious U.S. refinery incidents in recent years.”

“The information gathered so far indicates the incident had a serious impact on the community,” said CSB Board Member Mark Griffon, accompanying the team. “Area hospitals told CSB investigators that they attribute hundreds of emergency room visits by community members to reported effects of the release and fire, with symptoms ranging from anxiety to respiratory distress.”

Mr. Tillema said important issues in the investigation included understanding why the pipe that later failed was kept in service during a late 2011 maintenance turnaround and what procedures and industry practices exist for responding to a leak of combustible material from a running unit. He said the Board anticipates executing a site preservation and evidence testing agreement with Chevron and other investigative groups and arranging for independent testing of the leaking section of pipe to determine the failure mechanism.

Both Chevron and the United Steelworkers, which represents hourly workers at the plant, have been cooperating with the CSB team. Chevron has provided assurances its personnel will freely share their knowledge and investigative information with the Board. Cal/OSHA, Contra Costa County, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other investigative groups are fully cooperating.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. Please visit the CSB’s website at http://www.csb.gov.

For further information contact Communications Director Hillary Cohen at (202) 446-8094 or Sandy Gilmour at (202) 251-5496.

 

New Research Shows Metal Exposure From Laundered Shop Towels May Exceed Permissible Levels Set by the EPA for Metals in Drinking Water

This is a follow up story on a previous post I published about the possible toxicity of laundered cloth shop towels. The video above was part of that post.

Presented at the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, Gradient study advances research regarding metal residues, such as lead, on shop towels after commercial laundering

March 14, 2012, 8:30 a.m. EDT

SAN FRANCISCO, March 14, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Gradient, a nationally recognized environmental and risk science consulting firm, today presented new data that show metal exposure from use of laundered shop towels may exceed the permissible levels allowed in drinking water. Gradient presented a poster describing its findings at the annual Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, which is taking place from March 11 through 15 in San Francisco. The poster describes exposure to metals on shop towels and compares the exposure to toxicity criteria established by governmental agencies. Millions of manufacturing workers routinely use shop towels on the job.

According to the new research, manufacturing workers using a typical number of shop towels may be exposed to metals such as lead, chromium, cadmium and antimony at levels many times above those allowed by the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) or, in the case of lead, the action level (AL) for drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgates drinking water standards under the Safe Water Drinking Act to protect public health. An MCL, or AL for lead, is a legally enforceable limit which drinking water must meet. Suppliers of drinking water such as municipalities must address exceedances of MCLs, or the AL for lead, by taking corrective action and informing consumers.

“Our analysis indicates that shop towel users may unknowingly ingest higher amounts of metals than what is allowed in drinking water,” said Barbara Beck, Ph.D., DABT, principal at Gradient. “It is important for safety managers and plant workers to understand metal contamination levels in laundered shop towels so they can make informed decisions about their use.”

Workers May Unknowingly Ingest Heavy Metals from Contaminated Shop Towels

As recognized by multiple federal agencies such as the U.S. EPA, people can transfer contaminants from their hands to their mouths and ultimately ingest the invisible residues. The new Gradient analysis presented at the Society of Toxicology meeting compares the potential for heavy metal ingestion from shop towels to levels that may be consumed in water at drinking water limits. In the case of lead, daily intake from shop towels may be up to 21 times higher than the intake that would be associated with the lead action level.

Freshly laundered shop towels have been shown to be contaminated with metal residues, which may transfer to the hand during common usage, and can migrate to the mouth and be ingested at levels which exceed those allowed in drinking water.

The MCL and AL analysis advances Gradient’s research, which has been ongoing since 2003. Gradient has found that workers using the typical number of shop towels daily were exposed to seven metals — antimony, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead and molybdenum — that may exceed health-based limits. The same study found heavy metal residues in all of the laundered shop towels tested.

Kimberly-Clark Professional commissioned the 2011 Gradient study and the research presented by Gradient at the Society of Toxicology meeting. Both studies are based on analysis of data from laundered shop towels submitted by 26 North American manufacturing companies to an independent testing lab.

For more information, go to http://www.thedirtonshoptowels.com/ .

About Gradient

Gradient is an environmental and risk science consulting firm with nationally recognized specialties in toxicology, epidemiology, risk assessment, product safety, contaminant fate and transport, and environmental chemistry. It assists national and global clients in resolving their complex problems relating to chemicals in the environment, in the workplace and in consumer products. Gradient’s principals and senior scientists are nationally recognized experts and active contributors to the promotion of sound science. For more information, go to http://www.gradientcorp.com .

2012 is the Year America Must Get Serious About its Infrastructure

 

When we read about “America’s crumbling infrastructure” or similar phrases, the topic is easy to ignore for a few reasons.  First, “infrastructure” is a broad, nondescript term that doesn’t mean very much to most people. Second, we’ve been hearing the “crumbling” news for so long that it’s taken on a “sky is falling” flavor. Finally, even if we acknowledge the problem, what are we supposed to do about it anyway?

Those are reasonable responses to a message too vague and seemingly remote to grab our attention. In truth, the issues are very real and close to home, albeit invisible to most of us.  Water system engineers use the term “flush and forget” to describe our general mentality: we use and pay for utility services and they shouldn’t have to occupy any more of our mind space than that.

So let’s put a finer point on it: Infrastructure refers to every system under and above ground that allows us to enjoy this thing we call modern civilization. That includes bridges and roads, drinking water and wastewater pipelines, levees, power lines, solid waste systems, and a host of other things. Without these things, we would not have clean, drinkable water, or the ability to convey wastewater away from our homes to treatment facilities, or systems to handle the vast amounts of garbage we produce, or anything to drive on to accommodate our four-wheel lifestyles.

In short, without well-functioning infrastructure, we’d have nothing even approaching a first world existence.

In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) put out its latest “Infrastructure Report Card” for the nation, which carefully ranked the condition of 15 major types of infrastructure in every state. The average grade across all 15 areas was a resounding D.  The investment required to improve this grade over the span of five years, according to ASCE, was estimated at $2.2 trillion.

That was three years ago; we’re more than half way through the improvement period sketched out by the infrastructure experts.  So, where are we now?

Not nearly far enough.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) designated $787 billion to be spent over the course of 10 years. According to Recovery.gov, $62 billion of that was assigned to upgrade and replace failing infrastructure, a relative pittance compared to the ASCE estimate. Of that amount, the apportionments for critical needs infrastructure, like water, were tiny – barley a third of the total.  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), spending for all infrastructure improvements peaked in 2010 at just over $20 billion, and by 2013 the infrastructure budget will be 90% expended. Bottom line, the minimal amount of ARRA funding devoted to infrastructure is about to run out.

That puts the pressure to repair and replace our pipes and roadways where it has been increasingly going for half a century — on the shoulders of state and local governments.  According to the CBO,  the amount states and localities have spent to keep us civilized has gone from roughly $40 billion a year in 1957 to $170 billion in 2007, a nearly fivefold increase in inflation-adjusted dollars.  This escalating level of spending isn’t sustainable, as should be clear to anyone paying attention to how many states cannot even come close to maintaining their budgets.

The response to these realities in our present political climate is silence.  No one wants to touch it, because the enormity of the problem—and lack of a feasible solution—is just too hot.

But I’m here to tell you that our imaginary grace period of blissful ignorance is fast expiring; in fact, it evaporates a bit more every hour of every day.  Let’s take water infrastructure as one example.

Water and wastewater systems in several major cities are more than 100 years old. They have been patched and expanded over the years, but the overall systems are ancient. As a result, water leaks from eroding pipes and cracked conduits at a rate that’s proving hard to estimate. According to the EPA, the portion of these water systems connected to U.S. homes leaks at an average rate of 10,000 gallons per home per year; the equivalent of a swimming pool for every home.  In total, that’s an average of more than 1 trillion gallons a year, the equivalent of annual water use in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined.

When you layer in population growth in U.S. cities (projected to hit 400 million people in the next 40 years), those numbers become larger every year, and the hard reality is that we are running out of water.  According to research conducted by 24/7 Wall St, ten major cities are in danger of expending their water supply by 2050 or sooner. The list includes Phoenix, Los Angeles, Orlando, Las Vegas, Fort Worth, San Francisco, and Houston.

And those figures don’t take into account how much water is used outside of our homes. For example, in 2005, the power industry used 200 million gallons a day to generate electricity via thermoelectric systems. That number has surely risen since then because every year there are more of us crowding into cities, using more electricity.

What are we doing about it?  At the national level, very little. At the state and local level, as mentioned earlier, we’re trying to keep up, but the funding required to meet the ever-swelling need simply isn’t there.

The solutions must be incremental, because the problems are too large now to be addressed any other way. But until our national focus changes and we prioritize these problems in the very top tier of issues facing our country, we can’t even begin talking about solutions. If we allow politicians in and running for office to avoid these issues, then we are all culpable.

Our universal “wants” are clear: We want clean water; we want sewage and garbage to be safely removed from our neighborhoods; we want well-maintained roadways and bridges that we’re not afraid to drive across. We want all of these things, yet fail to see that none of them are guaranteed entitlements. They are resource-intensive services that come at immense cost.  2012 is the year to open our eyes.

David DiSalvo David DiSalvo, Contributor

I write about science, technology, and the cultural ripples of both.

Source: Forbes®

Union Pacific is ordered to pay more than $615,000 in whistleblower case

The Union Pacific Railroad has been found in violation of federal whistleblower protection laws and has been ordered to pay more than $615,000 in damages to three workers, including two from Kansas City.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the Omaha-based railroad company wrongfully fired two of the employees and suspended one in retaliation for reporting workplace safety concerns and an injury.

“Union Pacific Railroad has created a climate of fear instead of a climate of safety,” David Michaels, assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said in a statement.

OSHA offices in Kansas City and San Francisco did the investigation. The penalties include $400,000 in punitive damages and more than $90,000 in back wages.

Union Pacific said it planned to appeal the decision.

“The OSHA findings are inconsistent with the facts and ignore provisions of our collective bargaining agreements,” said spokesman Mark Davis.

According to the Labor Department, a Kansas City-based conductor was terminated in September 2010 after making “repeated complaints” to the company’s hotline about safety concerns, such as missing and obstructed roadway signs, and for noting that a supervisor violated safety procedures during a field test.

The railroad also cited the conductor for having a tattoo that it determined was creating a hostile work environment. The conductor received the tattoo, which commemorates his military service, before joining the railroad in 2004, the Labor Department said.

Another Kansas City conductor was suspended without pay for five days last November after complaining several times to the company’s hotline about rough spots on the track.

The third railroad employee, a locomotive engineer based in Tucson, Ariz., was let go after reporting a workplace injury.

Union Pacific also was ordered to offer training on whistleblower rights.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/08/26/3102135/union-pacific-is-ordered-to-pay.html#ixzz1WNG4nd4r

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