Proposed penalties exceed $49,000

iStock_000002377862XSmallIn October 2014, OSHA initiated an inspection of the main post office in Des Moines after receiving an employee complaint alleging that unsafe forklifts were being used at the facility. OSHA issued one repeated and two serious safety violations involving standards for powered industrial vehicles, tugs and forklifts being the most commonly used.

“The Postal Service has a responsibility to make sure equipment is maintained in good working order,” said Larry Davidson, OSHA’s area director in Des Moines. “Each year hundreds of workers are injured after being hit by forklifts. Having operating lights and other safety equipment helps to prevent such incidents.”

OSHA’s investigation found one forklift and two tugs were operating without such functioning flashing lights. OSHA previously cited the same facility for this violation in 2010. OSHA issues repeated violations when an employer has been previously cited for the same or a similar violation in the past five years.

Two serious violations were cited for failing to make repairs on a forklift and to remove it from service until fully functioning.

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R+L Carriers faces $86,900 in penalties for serious violations

iStock_000018872028_ExtraSmallBRIDGEPORT, Connecticut – Employees at a Wallingford freight shipping terminal faced dangerous chemical, fire and explosion hazards on October 6, 2014, as they tried to contain a highly flammable and explosive chemical spill without proper training and personal protective equipment, OSHA investigators have determined.

As a result of these conditions, OSHA found two repeated and four serious violations of workplace safety standards by R+L Carriers Shared Services LLC. The company faces $86,900 in proposed fines. The repeated violations stem from similar hazards cited by OSHA during a 2011 inspection of an R+L terminal in Chicago.

“These workers were essentially defenseless. They did not know how to evaluate the hazards involved, what personal protective equipment to use and what steps to follow to contain the spill safely. Worse, no one present at the terminal did,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA’s area director in Bridgeport. “These deficiencies in emergency response* by R+L Carriers put its employees at risk of death or serious injury.”

The investigation determined a forklift was being used to move a pallet of tetrahydrofuran, a highly flammable liquid with a flash point of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, from one truck to another when a 55-gallon drum containing the liquid was punctured accidentally. The chemical began leaking through the truck bed to the ground. R+L employees attempted to contain the spill with sorbent material beneath the truck and by cordoning off the area. OSHA investigators found that Wallingford terminal’s management lacked an emergency response plan and had not trained employees as first responders.

Management also did not evaluate the hazards associated with tetrahydrofuran; failed to provide the responding employees with appropriate respiratory protection and personal protective equipment; and did not have a qualified person on-site to oversee the response. The terminal’s emergency action plan also did not include procedures for timely reporting of emergency events. It was also noted that employees had not been briefed on updates to the plan. Finally, the forklift that punctured the drum was not operated properly.

R+L Carriers is a nationwide freight shipping company of 9,000 employees headquartered in Wilmington, Ohio; 45 work at the Wallingford terminal.

 

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Kansas City, Missouri, store receives 11 violations

iStock_000001167898SmallKANSAS CITY, Missouri – A worker alleging the existence of asbestos, mold and hygiene hazards led to an inspection of an Advance Auto Parts store in Kansas City, where OSHA found one repeat and 10 serious safety and health violations with fines of $60,000.

“Exposure to asbestos is a dangerous workplace issue that can cause loss of lung function and cancer, among other serious health effects. When Advance Auto uses an older building with presumed asbestos-containing material, such as floor tiles, it has a responsibility to conduct periodic air monitoring and must post warning signs for workers,” said Barbara Theriot, OSHA’s area director in Kansas City. “The company also has a responsibility to maintain the building in a sanitary and safe manner. OSHA found persistent flooding, which caused mold growth and created lower-level slip and fall hazards. This is unacceptable.”

OSHA inspectors tested bulk samples of furnace room floor tiles and found they contained 3 percent chrysotile, a form of asbestos. Sample air monitoring did not detect asbestos fibers circulating in the heating and air conditioning system. However, particles could become airborne from deteriorating tiles and persistent flooding, a consistent issue throughout the building.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber used in some building materials before its health dangers were discovered. Asbestos fibers are invisible and can be inhaled into the lungs unknowingly. Inhaled fibers can then become embedded in the lungs.

Inspectors also found electrical safety violations and blocked exit routes at the store, resulting in the 10 serious violations. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

OSHA also noted a repeated violation for failing to provide inspectors with injury and illness logs. Based in Roanoke, Virginia, Advance Auto Parts was previously cited for this violation in a Delaware, Ohio, store in 2010 and a Lakeland, Florida, store in 2011. OSHA issues repeated violations if an employer was cited previously for the same or a similar violation within the last five years.

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OSHA cites Hussmann Corp. for 3 willful, 12 serious violations

iStock_000023698673XSmallBRIDGETON, Missouri – A 58-year-old maintenance worker was killed after he was pinned between a scrap metal table and a railing at Hussmann Corp.’s Bridgeton facility.  An investigation by OSHA found the company failed to prevent the table from lowering unintentionally. As a result, Hussmann received three willful and 12 serious safety violations after the September 2014 incident. The company was also placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

“This tragic loss could have been prevented,” said Bill McDonald, OSHA’s area director in St. Louis. “OSHA inspectors found workers at risk of life-threatening hazards because Hussmann Corp. failed to train its workforce to prevent unintentional operation of dangerous machinery. This company needs to fix safety procedure deficiencies, so no other family is forced to suffer.”

OSHA cited Hussmann Corp. for three willful violations for not placing devices on machinery to prevent the sudden startup or movement of equipment during service and maintenance. The company also failed to correct numerous problems related to its lockout/tagout procedures, such as using electronic gate switches as a substitute for an energy-isolating device.

Hussmann Corp. also failed to train workers on safety procedures and lacked effective safeguards for moving parts on machinery. Inspectors identified unsafe practices related to powered industrial trucks, including allowing employees to work under a load held aloft by the vehicle, exposing them to crushed-by hazards. OSHA also discovered electrical safety hazards involving cabinets that were not closed properly to prevent contact with energized wires and using damaged electrical cables. In total, OSHA cited the company for 12 serious violations and has proposed penalties of $272,250.

To view current citations, visit https://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Hussmann_995311_030415.pdf.

Hussmann Corp. employs about 5,000 workers worldwide and 580 at its headquarters in Bridgeton. The company’s products include refrigerated and non-refrigerated display merchandisers, specialty display cases, self-contained display cases, LED lighting, glass doors and lids, refrigeration systems and other related products.

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iStock_000004803357XSmallThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has updated its scheduled publication date for the “Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents (MAP-21)” final rule.

Based on the Supplemental Significant Rulemaking Report, released on February 27, 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) now anticipates the Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) final rule to appear in the Federal Register on September 30, 2015. This was the date originally announced in November 2014, but the February 2015 edition of the DOT significant rulemakings indicated a date of November 9, 2015. However, FMCSA has since provided a supplemental version of the February report, reverting the date back to September 30, 2015.

The proposal would require all drivers who presently complete logs to switch over to ELDs, update the technical requirements related to electronic logs, implement data communication protocols that would allow a driver to send his/her electronic log to an officer, and provide rules on the retention of supporting documents.

According to the proposal, all drivers who presently use paper logs would be required to switch to an ELD two (2) years after the final rule is published. The only exception is for drivers who only have to complete a log eight days (or less), within the last 30 days.

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Alliance Tubular Products faces $139,800 in fines for serious safety violations

iStock_000003526780XSmallALLIANCE, Ohio – Twice in a year, Alliance Tubular Products LLC has put workers at risk of amputation and other serious injury by allowing dangerous machinery to operate unsafely. A July 2014 OSHA inspection found three repeated and four serious violations, with fines of $139,800 at the high-end industrial steel tubing manufacturer’s location in Alliance. The company was also placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program for its failure to address safety violations.

“Alliance Tubular was well aware of the dangers these machines posed to workers and failed to implement the proper protective procedures,” said Brigitte Frank, OSHA’s acting area director in Cleveland. “Each year, thousands of workers are injured by dangerous machinery. These types of violations are among the most frequently cited by OSHA and often result in death or permanent disability.”

OSHA issued three repeated citations after the agency found workers were exposed to operating machinery parts on weld mills and other industrial machines at the plant because safety mechanisms were not properly installed.

OSHA cited similar violations at the company’s facility in Darlington, Pennsylvania, in 2014 and at the Alliance facility in 2012. OSHA issues repeated violations if an employer previously was cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

Inspectors also noted four serious violations at Alliance Tubular that involved lack of procedures to prevent unintentional operation of machinery during maintenance and the use of railings that were not rated for the platforms on which they were installed. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

View the current citations at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/AllianceTubularProducts_994442_0129_15.pdf.

Alliance Tubular is a subsidiary of , headquartered in Wexford, Pennsylvania. PTC Alliance Corp. employs 2,100 workers companywide, with 247 at the Alliance facility.

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Michigan Shipyard receives $243K in fines, 18 safety violations

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAESCANABA, Michigan – Once again, workers were exposed to dangerous amputation hazards while operating press brakes, which cut large metal pieces weighing up to 450 tons, because safety mechanisms were not in place at Basic Marine Inc. In the past six years, OSHA inspectors have found similar hazards three times at the Escanaba-based shipyard and boat fabricating facility where a worker’s arm was amputated in 2008.

An August 2014 follow-up inspection at Basic Marine produced penalties of $242,940 for five repeated, three willful and 10 serious safety violations, including fall and respiratory hazards. The company has also been placed in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

“Basic Marine continues to maintain an environment where employees are blamed if they’re injured by dangerous machinery, and it fosters a culture where safety precautions are considered unnecessary,” said Larry Johnson, area director of OSHA’s Lansing Area Office. “Even when workers are harmed, the company is reluctant to re-evaluate its safety and health programs, and that’s wholly unacceptable.”

Three willful violations were assessed as workers were exposed to struck-by hazards, machine hazards and falls and trips from unguarded manholes and unprotected edges. In 2013, fatal falls, slips or trips took the lives of 699 workers, with falls to a lower level accounting for 574 of those fatalities. Fall and machine hazards are the most frequently cited OSHA standards.

OSHA also found repeated violations of respiratory protection standards, such as not requiring employees to wear air-line respirators. Crane slings were not inspected every three months, and inspection records were not maintained, as required. OSHA issues repeated violations if an employer was previously cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Basic Marine was cited for these hazards in 2011.

In addition, Basic Marine exposed workers to dangerous operating machine parts because it allowed the machines to be used with inadequate protective devices. The company also failed to provide specific written procedures and training for employees on how to prevent unintentional operation of machinery during service and maintenance, such as applying locking devices and turning equipment off. OSHA inspectors also noted unmarked exit signs and the company’s failure to post fire watches during welding activities. A total of 10 serious violations were issued.

View the current citations at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/BasicMarineInc_991438_0212_15.pdf.

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by Laura Dietrich, Certified Professional Ergonomist

iStock_000026730005LargeI was recently at the gym talking with a friend who complained about wrist pain during his workouts.  I watched him during class and noticed that the entire time he held the weight lifting bar, his wrists were flexed back.  After bringing this to his attention, he corrected his wrist posture, but several minutes later his wrists were deviated again.  This experience got me to thinking.  How often are we exacerbating our wrist pain during our everyday activities outside of work?

If your work station as been evaluated and corrected for ergonomic risk factors and you are still experiencing wrist pain, it might be time to look beyond the office.

Exercise

Many of the exercises we love may have hidden concerns.  Biking is a good example.  Depending on the handle bar design, many cyclists either drop their wrists causing extreme extension, or bend wrists inward causing radial deviation.  This is easily corrected with awareness of your wrist posture when biking.  I find on long rides that if I am not paying attention, my wrists will drop and my hands will fall asleep.  Changing the handle bar design from a straight bar to either a drop-down handle or a 45-degree angle at the handle location will help to neutralize the wrists.

When it involves weight lifting, the major factor is awareness of your wrist posture when lifting.  My friend changed his posture briefly, but then soon forgot.  Unfortunately, he is still experiencing wrist pain and sometimes does not go to class due to the discomfort.  Becoming aware of and breaking bad habits is not easy, but will usually resolve the problem.

Golfers and tennis players are constantly bending their wrists and exerting force with deviated postures.  The most obvious answer to this concern would be the same thing I recommend for many manufacturing facilities:  rotation.  Rotating between different sports allows some muscles, tendons, and ligaments to rest while others are being used.  For example, instead of playing tennis five days a week, change to tennis mixed with running, swimming or hiking.  This rotation will provide the added benefit of becoming a better-rounded athlete.

Sleep

Some people sleep with wrists flexed (bent) which contributes to compression of the carpal tunnel.  Becoming aware of the habit is the first step and is often enough to change the position of the wrists during sleep.  If that does not work, wearing a wrist brace to bed will insure neutral wrists during sleep.

Smart phones and tablets

An ever increasing trend is using hand-held electronics for entertainment purposes outside of work.  The concern here is that the wrist holding the device is often bent for long periods of time, thus compressing the carpal tunnel area.  These devices were really not intended to long term use, but rather short-term intervals.  The resolution is pretty simple and usually involves not holding the tablet or phone while using it:  put it on a stand to get it in an upright position or on a table.  A second option would be to limit the amount of time you hold the device to no more than 10 minutes.

Unresolved wrist pain can be both frustrating and concerning.  Looking at all areas of your life and making sure your wrists are straight during use will go a long way towards allowing them to heal.

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Lone Star Management cited following tragedy

iStock_000018872028_ExtraSmallPITTSBURG, Kansas – Two Lone Star Management LLC employees were directed to use a gas-powered forklift to move pallets of fireworks and cardboard out of an explosives storage facility in Pittsburg when the gas ignited, which caused an explosion and fire. Within seconds, the trapped employees became engulfed in flames. The inferno took the life of one 28-year-old worker and left a 43-year-old co-worker to suffer with burns over 80 percent of his body and the possibility of never working again.

OSHA found nine serious safety violations at the warehouse following an investigation of the August 2014, incident. As a result, Lone Star Management, which specializes in importing and distributing Class 1 fireworks, was cited.

“Poor housekeeping, combined with using a forklift not approved for flammable environments, proved to be a deadly combination,” said Judy Freeman, OSHA’s area director in Wichita. “Fireworks are meant to be fun, but by their nature, are highly explosive. This employer knew the hazards and how to protect staff. The families of these workers should not suffer because a company did not show a commitment to worker safety.”

OSHA’s investigation found that the company failed to paint explosive storage containers red with appropriate warnings and stored unauthorized materials, including cardboard, in the explosives’ containers.

Lone Star Management also failed to develop, implement and maintain a written hazard communication program to train workers about hazardous workplace materials and provide necessary handling safety precautions. Additionally, fire extinguishers were not mounted and accessible and employees were not trained to use them. The company also failed to have a competent person on-site to enforce safety standards for magazine storage.

OSHA has proposed fines of $55,000 for the nine serious violations. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known existed.

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by Laura Dietrich, Certified Professional Ergonomist

Dissatisfied Business LadyBy now, most of us have heard the news reports on the effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time: “Our study showed that sitting time was associated with a higher risk of all causes of mortality:  heart disease mortality, cancer mortality, and diabetes — independent of exercise,” according to David Alter of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, who led the research.  The average office worker sits for approximately 5 hours and 40 minutes each day. Pretty scary stuff, considering the fact that even if we exercise regularly after work, we are still at an increased risk for disease.

Many studies have recently confirmed the benefits of standing while working.  This includes increased blood flow and a decreased risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. A 2013 study found that standers burn, on average, 50 more calories per hour, thus decreasing their risk of obesity. This significant list of benefits really makes us all start to consider “am I sitting too much?”

There is an innovative resolution that many people are trying – a sit/stand workstation.  I have evaluated workstations that range from a homemade standing workstation that an employee brought in, to automatic desks that raise and lower with the push of the button.  The cost of these stations range from a manual stand that rests on your desk to allow work while sitting which can be raised to enable working in a standing position (starting at $250) to an electric desk that raises by simply pushing a button (starting at $700).

If you are interested in trying a sit/stand station, here are a few recommendations:

  • Have your employees try out the station and complete an evaluation form before purchasing.  You want to avoid purchasing the station and then having employees decide they don’t want to use it.  Think of all the treadmills that are used as clothes hangers in bedrooms!
  • Make sure the station is adjusted correctly for neutral wrist posture in both the sitting and standing positions.  This is critical because if we improve health by standing but ultimately cause an ergonomic injury due to set-up, nothing has been gained.
  • Provide an anti-fatigue mat for people to stand on.  Standing can be fatiguing if done on a hard surface for prolonged periods of time.
  • Educate your employees that they still need to walk around briefly every hour to increase blood flow and relax muscles.

Not ready to take the plunge and change your workstation?  Then use the study information to make sure that you are getting out of your chair every 45 – 60 minutes and standing up.  Preliminary evidence from studies suggests that regular interruptions in sitting can be beneficial and help offset the effects of being sedentary.  Take a short stroll to the coffee pot, to deliver a report, or to ask a question in person rather than emailing.   We used to do these activities without even thinking about it, but now we can actually go through the day without interfacing with a ‘real’ person.  So, take this study as a great excuse to get up and move!

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