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.

Posted in Caught Between/Struck By, Fall Protection, Injury Prevention, Machine Safety, OSHA Inspections, Respiratory Protection | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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Ordered to pay maximum punitive damages

iStock_000016656836XSmallwhistlebower2HARTFORD, Connecticut – Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company’s actions against an injured worker have resulted in the largest punitive damages ever in a retaliation case under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. A recent investigation by the OSHA uncovered these details and revealed that the worker, who is employed as a coach cleaner for the commuter rail carrier, was retaliated against after reporting the knee injury he suffered on November 17, 2011. As a result, the company has been ordered to pay the employee a total of $250,000 in punitive damages, $10,000 in compensatory damages, and to cover reasonable attorney fees.

While driving the injured employee to the hospital, a Metro-North supervisor also intimidated the worker, reportedly telling the worker that railroad employees who are hurt on the job are written up for safety and are not considered for advancement or promotions within the company.

Unofficial reports from other employees appear to corroborate the supervisor’s claims. For instance, one worker smashed her foot with a barrel while on the job, yet she did not file an accident report and showed up to work every day using crutches in hope of keeping her injury record clean. Another worker was injured when her hand was caught in a broken door but, like her coworker, she did not fill out an incident report for fear of reprisal.

Shortly after the Connecticut employee reported the work-related injury, Metro-North issued disciplinary charges against him. The employee filed an initial Federal Railroad Safety Act anti-discrimination complaint with OSHA on April 19, 2012. An amended complaint was filed on April 9, 2013, after the railroad issued additional disciplinary charges against him.

“When employees, fearing retaliation, hesitate to report work-related injuries and the safety hazards that caused them, companies cannot fix safety problems and neither employees nor the public are safe,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “In this case, the Metro-North’s conduct was deliberate and discriminatory, and we have assessed the maximum amount in punitive damages allowed under the law.”

OSHA’s investigation found that the employee engaged in protected activity when he reported his injury and filed his complaints with OSHA, that Metro North knew these were protected activities and that these protected activities were contributing factors in Metro North’s subsequent disciplining of the employee.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published a preliminary Special Investigation Report dated November 19, 2014, regarding several recent accidents, including fatalities, involving Metro-North. The NTSB noted in their findings that “Metro-North Railroad did not have an effective program that encouraged all employees to report safety issues and observations.” OSHA’s findings here provide another example of this: if employees are discouraged from reporting injuries, the employees and the public are endangered as Metro-North cannot correct the conditions which caused the injuries.

In addition to paying punitive and compensatory damages, OSHA ordered Metro-North to expunge the employee’s record of all charges and disciplinary action. The company must also conduct training for all supervisors and managers on employee whistleblower rights and post a notice to employees of their whistleblower rights. Both the employee and the railroad have 30 days from receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.

Under these laws enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed employee rights information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

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OSHA Proposes $162,500 Penalty for Anheuser-Busch Sales of New Jersey

iStock_000013815038XSmall man on forkliftJERSEY CITY, N.J. – A distribution warehouse for beverage manufacturer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, makers of Budweiser, Bud Light and Corona beer, willfully put workers at risk of serious injury. Doing business as Anheuser-Busch Sales of New Jersey, the company exposed permanent and temporary workers to hazards that involved powered industrial trucks and other dangers at its Jersey City facility, an investigation OSHA found. Penalties totaled $162,500.

Initiated as part of the agency’s Site-Specific Targeting Program that directs enforcement resources to workplaces with the highest injury and illness rates, the OSHA investigation found two willful and eight serious violations.

“These employees faced the risk of serious injuries due to Anheuser-Busch’s failure to provide appropriate training, properly working equipment, and safe exit routes, which is unacceptable,” said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office. “This company is fully aware of the safety hazards in its Jersey City facility and should immediately take corrective action.”

OSHA investigators determined that powered industrial truck operators were not trained by Anheuser-Busch, and defective trucks were not removed from service. These willful violations have a $121,000 penalty.

The Anheuser-Busch warehouse also had obstructed exit routes, damaged storage racks and additional powered industrial truck hazards. The company also failed to provide both chemical hazard communication and powered industrial truck training. These violations carry a $41,500 penalty.

View the citations at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Anheuser-Busch_978459_1203_14.pdf

 

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JSW Steel (USA) Inc. cited for 12 violations; $126,000 in fines proposed

Ventilation plant.BAYTOWN, Texas – Employees who perform maintenance work on a metal cutting machine must be trained to safely de-energize the machinery and conduct periodic audits of those procedures, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An OSHA inspection on June 10, 2014, of the JSW Steel (USA) Inc. Baytown facility found the company violated 12 safety requirements. Proposed penalties total $126,000.

Lockout/tagout procedures exist to keep workers from hazards, including electrocution, crushing, burns, lacerations and amputations. Not following procedures puts workers’ lives in danger, and that is unacceptable,” said Mark Briggs, OSHA’s Houston South Area Office director. “Although workers were not injured in this case, the employer must be proactive and correct hazards before injuries or fatalities occur.”

OSHA cited JSW Steel for one repeated violation, carrying a fine of $70,000, for failure to conduct periodic inspections and develop lockout/tagout procedures to safely power off the shear, a large metal cutting machine, during machine maintenance and servicing.

Inspectors also identified nine serious violations, with a proposed fine of $54,000, for failure to affix lockout or tagout safeguards on dangerous machinery and to train employees performing machine maintenance. JSW Steel also was cited for inadequate drenching or flushing facilities for workers exposed to injurious corrosive materials. The company also was cited for two other violations, with a $2,000 fine, for failure to mount fire extinguishers and replace a missing junction box.

View the citations at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/JSWSteelUSAIncInsp980283.pdf*.

JSW Steel employs approximately 700 workers and produces a variety of steel products at its Baytown facility.

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Proposed Penalties Exceed $100,000

iStock_000023698673XSmallAn investigation by OSHA found that Birds Eye Foods Inc. expected employees to work in a 40-degrees-below-zero Fahrenheit freezer without properly insulated personal protective equipment. OSHA also discovered slip, trip and fall hazards on unclean freezer floors.

“OSHA’s investigation uncovered that entry-level workers bought thermal protective equipment because Birds Eye Foods had not provided it. It was ridiculous that workers needed to spend money on protections their employer failed to provide,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s area director in Madison.

OSHA initiated an inspection after it received a complaint that alleged unsafe working conditions. The inspection of the frozen-food processing plant resulted in one repeat and 12 serious safety violations. The citations carry proposed penalties of $109,400.

The company was issued a repeat violation for failure to install fixed stairs to access elevations with tools and equipment, which exposed workers to fall hazards. Inspectors found the same violation at the Darien facility in June 2013. OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer was cited previously 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.

The investigation also found serious violations with workers exposed to live electrical parts and hazards related to hexavalent chromium. An industrial process, such as welding on stainless steel or other alloy steels containing chromium metal, usually produces hexavalent chromium. Exposure to hexavalent chromium could cause cancer and adversely affect the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes.

To view the current citations, visit http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/BirdsEyeFoodsInc_978296.pdf*.

Birds Eye Foods employs about 600 workers at the Darien facility and is a division of Pinnacle Foods Inc., based in Parsippany, New Jersey. Pinnacle Foods also operates the Duncan Hines Grocery Division.

Posted in Hexavalent Chromium, OSHA, OSHA Inspections, PPE, Slips/Trips/Falls | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OSHA cites Environmental Remediation and Recovery Inc. after worker dies while cleaning oil residue inside rail car at Mounds, Illinois, facility

DSC00040MOUNDS, Ill. – A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation found that Environmental Remediation and Recovery Inc. did not have equipment or trained personnel to rescue a 27-year-old worker promptly who collapsed and later died while cleaning a rail car. OSHA has cited seven willful and 14 serious safety violations, many involving permit-required confined space safety regulations. The company has also been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

OSHA determined that the employee entered a 30,000-gallon rail car on May 20, 2014, and suffered from cardiac arrhythmia. He was unable to exit the rail car on his own. The man had been on the job for about 14 months at the time of the incident.

“Permit-required confined spaces put workers at risk for serious injury and illness from hazards,” said Nick Walters, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago. “The employer must ensure that safety equipment, such as retrieval lines and proper respiratory protection, is provided to employees and used each time someone enters a confined space. Each year workers are fatally injured when working in confined spaces.”

Environmental Remediation failed to monitor permit-required confined spaces; allowed entry when atmospheric conditions* were unacceptable; and did not provide personal protective equipment, including self-contained breathing apparatus and respirators. The company also failed to remove defective respirators from use. A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, such as a rail car clean out, but it has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy.

In addition, the company failed to designate trained rescue employees and use a retrieval system attached to the worker to aid in rescue. OSHA cited the company for seven willful violations. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Additionally, Environmental Remediation failed to comply with respiratory protection requirements, maintain rescue equipment, ensure ventilation equipment was used properly, and provide fall protection for workers at the top of the rail car, which exposed them to falls of 15 feet or more. A total of 14 serious citations were issued for these 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 has proposed fines totaling $188,400. To view the current citations, visit http://www.dol.gov/osha/pdf/Environmental-Remediation_977916_1118_14.pdf*

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